What is happening?

You get a flurry of stories about "UFOs shot down" and you expect there'd be a bit more concern. When the story flips from "nope, can't do anything, gotta let 'em go or they'll rain debris on daycares" to "Military establishes no-fly zone; F-15s scramble out of Washington, tankers en route" you'd think we'd go right to the point 20 minutes into the movie after the characters have been established, right to the news conference with shouting reporters.

But we’re all pretty certain we’re not going to hear anything definitive about this, right? It’s going to fade, replaced by some other noise. It’s going to be one of those things. Nothing is explained, yet everything accumulates, and everyone ends up with an attic full of rustling rats.

Let’s review. First we had the balloon, and we all got used to the balloon quickly, because people made funny memes. Ha ha! Whatever its presence implied mattered less than its memeability, because lol it’s all tweet fodder. The story swiftly morphed to “Trump had Chinese balloon incursions” vs. “No he didn’t well maybe but more important why are you saying he did” and then that was that. But then we had something on Saturday, complete with the amusing headlines about Trudeau ordering the US to shoot it down. Sure. Heels were clicked and salutes were made because the orders had come down from the Canadian Prime Minister.

I don’t mean to impugn the office. I can imagine a time when the occupant of the office would be a sober sort, steeped in the country’s unique history and contributions to the Anglosphere, but Trudeau strikes me as a puffed-up nullity who gets by on patrimony and fulsome hair.

Here's the thing: no one expects a major briefing or address on this. It's as if we're indifferent to someone not even bothering to fib to us.

Well, there's always the past, when the present gets baffling. I was in Kingman AZ, Google-wise. Finding a motel for next year’s additions. (Halfway done.) When I turned the camera around I found something interesting.


Do you know what that is? Perhaps not. But you probably know the era. It’s a google-style restaurant from the heyday of ahistorical space-age modernism, the new playful world of pancakes and hamburgers.

How about now?

Gardenia, California.

Now it’s familiar, isn’t it? Same building, but the sign tells you what it was. It might even have been a Denny's for a while, since that chain wriggled into the dead husk of Sambo's and reaninated it.

These pictures made me search for some other examples of the chain. They had a variety of styles. I found an interior shot that was the exact layout of our main Sambo’s in Fargo. (Can’t find the original source for credits, but it appears to be by Tim Putz. Here’s his book.)

If you search for “googie” you find some of the most exuberant and idiosyncratic architecture of the 20th century. Most “futuristic” modernism was imposed on cities by ideologues of various stripes and temperaments. You had the true believers in the Miesian ideals who were subsidized by corporate boards and municipal authorities - and sometimes this worked well. I like a lot of stripped-down 60s modernism, but too much deadens the street. The Miesian ideas made their way into small towns, in the form of banks and post offices. That’s fine.

But google was not imposed. It was offered to all for the price of a cup of coffee. It was ridiculous and bright and fun. It certainly broke with all past historical models, and in that sense was as destructive to the street as modernism, but it works in burbs and car-centric cities, where everything’s low slung and there’s not much high-value old architecture. Places where there isn’t much past to displace. Architecture for the New Frontier, where the California skies shade into the great beyond. It's architecture that anticipates something. And what might that be?

Or so we hoped.


MY GAWD how gauche

The gall

The nerve

It's just not done






This was an unsuccessful pilot for a TV version. Or rather, a version that did not get picked up; I think it’s successful enough on its own right. As I’ve said, I’ve never read the books, so I’m able to enjoy the interpretation of the character without having my own ideas abraded or contracted. And who's the character? Hold on a bit.

Since it’s 1959, we begin with a Space Launch. Yo, ho . . .

The highly technical complicated control board of things that blink!

Eggheads in a row, waiting to see if the launch will be successful. One of them will drop dead at the moment of ignition. Only one really stands out:

This guy was all over TV. Like a psychokiller Mr. Greenjeans.

We meet our hero, who is in bed, with a cold, being irascible.

He's back for another attempt at making America love his non-book version!

This characterization is . . . arrogant teddy bear? He sulks and pouts, but also seems to have solved the murder before he heard about it. Ah, you say, who’s the Archie, the factotum, the assistant, the leg man, the ladies’ man, Nero’s eyes and ears in the world?


It’s quick and enjoyable, and the fellow who put it up it did a great job of restoration. A great quick piece for students of the early years of TV, and the career of our dear Shatman.


If you wish: here it is.

Now two ways to chip in!

That'll do! Some matchbooks await your perusal.



blog comments powered by Disqus