Oh, the storm cometh. At the moment we're in a lull, but the true horror, a storm worse than the fabled Halloween Blizzard, is still scheduled to bury us on Wednesday and Thursday. I went to the store today to get the requisites, because one must get bread and milk. We use so little milk that I thought the stuff we have may be elderly, and you never know what sort of things you might need. Eggs were down to under three dollars!

For six, but still!

I had to check the pizza freezer, to see what the configuration was today. Last week: Lotsa Mozza for 8.99; this week it's 10.99. This week: Connie's for 6.99; last week it's 11.99. Or the brand you don't like is the only thing on sale. You tried it once. It just didn't work for you. The cheese was too gluey, perhaps. The crust did not deliver on your crust-template expectations. A Connie's crust, for example, is crispy and flavorful, with hints of corn. The Lotsa crust underwhelms in all possible ways, but it has the structural integrity to hold the excess of cheese.

Crust doesn't really matter. It's the sauce. It's always the sauce.

The flakes started as I left. We'd been anticipating them all day. IT's like hearing the first distant alrums of war, the faint boom of a cannon. You're Bogey, leaning on the window in Paris with Ilsa: those would be the six-point dendrites. They'll increase in size and be joined by stellar plates as the temperature drops.

Meanwhile, in Amsterdam:

Photo from Natalie. Being a dutiful father I'm taking everything off the shared album and setting it aside in the family archives.

Some happy family news: Natalie is in the running a British flash-fiction contest, and has already been guaranteed a spot in the printed anthology of the entrants. This makes her a published author in A REAL BOOK at age 22, and once again, she’s ahead of me.

Flash-fiction is, as it sounds, short and quick. I’ve been revising my own version of that, something I did ten years ago. You may have seen the hint a few weeks back. It’s heartening to see what’s good and even more heartening to see that I know what needs fixing. I’ll be releasing the book online, because I can’t see any publishing house taking it on. There’s the problem of the illustrations - color, every four pages or so. That bumps up the cost.

Annnnd there’s the problem of plotlessness. It’s not really plotless, but as one snooty reader at my old publisher put it years ago, it was “too episodic.” Thank you, over-educated recent Barnard grad in deep debt living six-to-a-room in Brooklyn. It’s a short-story collection with connective tissue between everything, so yes, episodic is the very definition. The other problem is the lack of appetite for stories about single men in 1955 who are selling and designing matchbooks.

If he solved crimes, it might work, but just a series of stories about a salesman? And really, matchbooks?

Yes of course matchbooks.

Anyway. It’s good to return to the story, and remember where I was when I wrote it: at the failed little cafe at the old Strib building, second floor. Used to be a stand with coffee and snacks, and a clerk who rang you up. Then the clerk went away, and there were vending machines. Then those went away.

There was, however, a phone booth at the entrance. I have no idea why there was a phone booth at the newspaper, since there were phones everywhere in the old days, but there it was, like a machine I could use to slip back to 1966.

I don’t miss it at all. But I'm glad I knew those phones. My daughter will never know the feeling of the coin return slot cover, how it was weighted so it would return to the closed position.










In the 50s, the term “sick society” was used by the scolds and the moralists, taking from Erich Fromm the idea of a “Sick” or “sane” culture. Certain comics were branded “sick.” A certain form of low humor was sick. There was a disapproving moral component to the term, but the smart set thought this was an overreaction.

And it was. Wikipedia's account of the "sick" cohort:

These were Lenny Bruce, political satirist Mort Sahl, Shelley Berman, Jonathan Winters, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Tom Lehrer.)

A rather broad net.

Stand-up comedian Daniele Luttazzi says: "the term sick comedy then ended up being used to encompass a bit of everything: the humor of the Mad magazine as Jules Feiffer, the cartoons by Charles Addams as the monologues by Mike Nichols and Elaine May, the traditional comedy by Shelley Berman and the hipster comedy of Dick Gregory." The first published (1958) collection of Feiffer cartoons was entitled “Sick, Sick, Sick.”

I mean, Don Adams was included in the group, because he made a joke about an airline crash.

The Time magazine called them “Sickniks,” which is really a time-capsule word. From the piece:

Sociologists, both professional and amateur, see in the sick comedians a symptom of the 20th century's own sickness. Says one: "It's like the last days of Rome—all this horror and mayhem in humor.”

Remember, this is 1959 we're tlaking about. All this horror and mayhem! Wait, that can't be right, it was a happy placid time with a rock-solid culture. I've seen the ads!

When you think of the corn that was raised and reaped in the 40s, and the anodyne twaddle of the early TV years, you can understand the appeal of these guys, especially to the young, and particularly the young and educated. The ideal Lehrer fan is a grad student who gets all the references.

So that's the old sick. Then there's the new (h/t instapundit)


The Hundred Acre Wood has seen some pretty unsettling things over the years. A honey jar shortage. Rather blustery days. The omnipresent threat of a Heffalump.

But in “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey,” a new microbudget R-rated horror film, Pooh wades into far darker territory than even Eeyore could have ever imagined. After 95 years of saying things like “A hug is always the right size,” Pooh — newly freed from copyright — is now violently terrorizing a remote house of young women.

Countless cherished characters have passed into public domain before, but perhaps never so abruptly and savagely as Pooh.

The article goes on to say how all the characters who come out of copyright may suffer the same "reimagining." Of course they will. Why? Because there's money and reputations to be made among people who have no culture. They inherited a box of mysterious objects they don't understand, but they know the box was marked GOOD and that makes them irritable. Impatient. Mad that people think there's such a thing.

There's no good. There's Awesome, and there's Sucks.

Winnie the Pooh butchering women? Awesome.

“When Superman and Batman fall into the public domain, there’s going to be some wild films, I’m sure of it,” says “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” writer, director and co-producer Rhys Waterfield. “There’s going to be so many different and cool unique iterations coming off that. I might do one.”


Afterwards, Frake-Waterfield announced a sequel to Blood and Honey with a budget five times greater  along with horror films based on Bambi and Peter Pan.

Unique iterations.

The amusing thing is that nothing this guy ever does will be as scary as a Heffalump - the mere suggestion of the existence of the Heffalump - to a small child enraptured with the world of Pooh.

Sorry, the Poohniverse.

Anyway, the culture is totally fine, and the descent into the self and the celebration of transgressive unique iterations is going just great.





It’s 1943.

Pictures? Pshaw. We got news, we don’t need pictures.



It’s the type of story that tells the home front the momentum has shifted, and we have the Nazis on their back foot. They have conceded the loss of momentum, and now their cities are being bombed. What if they are ready to buckle?

Hate to tell someone in ’43 how much lay ahead.



Your dog can still run around if it has a license. If not, well, sorry Fido, but you can’t go biting kids.


A war cartoon that capitalized on the idea of Gremlins war-effort wreckers.

Where did it come from? Why, that Bugs Bunny cartoon, you say. No:

In 1943, Roy O. Disney approached the Title Registration Committee to convince them that all the cartoon studios registering new titles about gremlins violated Disney’s claim to the word and previously registered title for a proposed feature film inspired by Roald Dahl’s story. For what Roy later claimed were “technical reasons” the committee ruled against the Disney Studio so Roy contacted them personally.

Both Walter Lantz and MGM’s Fred Quimby agreed to drop their projects.

Roy wrote a memo to his brother Walt dated March 25, 1943 that the other cartoon studios agreed to not produce gremlin cartoons but Columbia apparently decided to continue such a project.

The Bugs Bunny gremlin cartoon came out in October.

It was a WW2 thing:

This concept of gremlins was popularized during World War II among airmen of the UK's RAF units, in particular the men of the high-altitude Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU) of RAF Benson, RAF Wick and RAF St Eval. The flight crews blamed gremlins for otherwise inexplicable accidents which sometimes occurred during their flights. Gremlins were also thought at one point to have enemy sympathies, but investigations revealed that enemy aircraft had similar and equally inexplicable mechanical problems. As such, gremlins were portrayed as being equal opportunity tricksters, taking no sides in the conflict, and acting out their mischief from their own self-interest.

As for the word:

Although their origin is found in myths among airmen claiming that gremlins were responsible for sabotaging aircraft, the folklorist John W. Hazen states that some people derive the name from the Old English word gremian, "to vex"

Don't like that explanation? Try this:

. . . while Carol Rose, in her book Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia, attributes the name to a portmanteau of Grimm's Fairy Tales and Fremlin Beer. According to Paul Quinion, it is plausible that the term is a blend of the word "goblin" with the name of the manufacturer of the most common beer available in the RAF in the 1920s, Fremlin.

Nice, but I don't buy it. But:

Author Roald Dahl is credited with getting the gremlins known outside the Royal Air Force. He would have been familiar with the Fremlin brewery and the myth, having lived in Kent with his family for ten years from the age of 13 before writing his first children's novel, The Gremlins, in which "Gremlins" were tiny men who lived on RAF fighter stations and who regularly caused technical problems and mechanical damage that could not otherwise be explained.


The Twins story sounds a bit too pat.

Let’s look at some movies. Recognize any of these?

Private C. K. Slack. A local? Some name briefly in the news? Googling . . . ah dammit no I don’t want the in-company messaging service. Ah: He was a WWI vet, the only private to get the Congressional Medal of Honor. “Four Aces” was a movie about his experiences.

Sons of the Sea looks like a war picture, but it’s not, and it was made in 1939.

War Dogs review at imdb: “Patriotic low-budget programmer from Poverty Row sees Pal the dog helping the US war effort by foiling a Nazi sabotage plot. Slight tale is interrupted by documentary inserts showing dogs going through their steps at boot camp.”

Pal the Wonder Dog was actually named Ace, and made 15 movies. The last one with Buster Keaton, who ambled into a bad picture for the accustomed fee, then ambled out.

The Pastime went down in ’63.

The Varsity was demolished in the early 90s.

The Avengers was originally named The Day Will Dawn, and it was a British film about the occupation of Norway. Co-star in Silent Witness? ACE THE WONDER DOG.

  The Englert still stands. I saw the Exorcist there.

This one I’ve never heard about, but that’s on me. Synop:

Pop, a security guard at Paramount has told his son that he's the head of the studio. When his son arrives in Hollywood on shore leave with his buddies, Pop enlists the aid of the studio's dizzy switchboard operator in pulling off the charade. Things get more complicated when Pop agrees to put together a show for the Navy starring Paramount's top contract players.


  They would have lived here in Chicago.

From her obit:

Elizabeth Lampe Elizabeth Lampe Erickson, age 96, died peacefully on Sunday, December 4, 2011 with dignity and grace in Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas, Texas after a brief illness. Elizabeth "Betty" was born on June 29, 1915 to M. Willard and Lydia (Val-lentyne) Lampe in PA. She spent her early childhood years in Oak Park, Erickson Illinois and moved to Iowa City, Iowa at the age of 12 where she developed dear friendships that nourished her through out her long life.

While living in Chicago, she met Sheldon Edward Erickson and they were married in 1943 in Iowa City just before Sheldon departed for his service in Guam during World War 11. Betty spent the war years in Santa Monica, California working as an executive assistant to Stromberg Movie Productions. Upon Sheldon's return, they lived in Akron Ohio, where she raised her two sons and worked as a career counselor for the State of Ohio. Following Sheldon's death, Betty returned to Iowa City in 1969 to reconnect with family and friends and continue her career with the University of Iowa in Student Career placement.

It was her home, of all the places she’d been. I’ve been there. I understand.


Now two ways to chip in!

That'll do - a short trip to 1954 interiors awaits. See you tomorrow - IF I SURVIVE.



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