Some Minnesotans have a standard reaction when we wake to find the world sheathed in snow: AAAAAIIIIEEEE! But it passes quickly. It’s going to happen sooner or later, after all. If November passes without snow, we worry: oh, we’re gonna get hit bad fer sure come December. If the last month of the year is snowless, we get surly: hey! What’s the point of living here if we get brown Christmases? We wanted one of those, we’d move to . . . one of those brown places, like Nevada or something. But not the higher elevations where they get snow. When there’s no snow in January we steel ourselves for the plaintive song of the Snowblower Salesman, interviewed on the local news. Then comes the big white dump in February, and a deep caul of snow in March that will take the sun a month to stare down. Snow in November? Sounds about right. We’re Minnesotans. We’re bred for this. We can take it. Snow, the first week of November? Bring it on!

Especially since we know it’ll rain soon and the snow will go away.

But the snow tells you something you might have figured out already: the warm days are gone. It may have been 83 degrees two weeks ago, but not only are those days over, it will be 102 degrees colder in a few months. Get used to it. For me, this means gloves. But I have no gloves. I made it through last winter without gloves or a hat. Not because it was warm; no. I just shy away from hats, and gloves are encumbrances. It has to be 20 below for a week before I’ll think seriously about gloves.

I mean, that’s why God made pockets.

Standing outside tonight (read: cigar) I watched the planes come through the fog; an amazing sight as lovely as it is commonplace. The clouds are moving fast, so the lights of the planes seem to be cutting through an army of wraiths. Excalibur! I wondered: how would this magnificent sight have struck, say, an educated Roman? You could sit down and talk law or fluid dynamics with a Roman. You could surely talk politics. You could talk art and architecture. But when the plane lanced through the fog, what would he say? Not sure, but: Just as DaVinci anticipated the helicopter, so there have always been people who could look at something beyond their technological ken and say: that is made by the hand of man. Clarke’s line about any sufficiently advanced technology being indistinquishable from magic is still good, but there are always those cold-eyed types who don’t believe in magic. Or rather don’t have time for those who ascribe everything to magic. There would be some Roman generals who’d look at a jet and think: you could use that to drop stones on Germans, you could.

Bad movies are as instructive as the good ones, and often times more so, he asserted blandly, making his readers wonder what tedious recap they’d be treated to today.

“Just Imagine” was shot in 1930. It’s a sci-fi musical set in 1980. Someone in Hollywood must have wondered why “Metropolis” didn’t do well, and thought: how about if we redo Metropolis, with all the magnificent special effects and stunning modern sets, but we take out the class warfare crap, put in some musical numbers, add ethnic comic relief, and set half of it on Mars? Bingo. It’s quite a mess, but it’s pre-code, which makes it very racy for the day. There’s a scene of some Martian ritual that involves several hundred women wearing a total of six inches of fabric, for example. And the big bruiser bodyguard on Mars takes a liking to our Yiddish / Swedish Ethnic Comic Relief from 1930, and they walk around arm in arm for half the picture. “You’re not the queen, says the Swede to the Martian Queen. He points to the brute who’s holding his arm: “He’s the queen.” Nineteen thirty, folks.

There was one moment that killed me: the two young pilots are walking around New York with the newly defrosted man from 1930, explaining what’s different. Prohibition is still in effect. “But they’re talking about permitting light wines and beer soon,” says one guy. “Oh, they’re still saying that, are they” says Mr. 1930. They observe a couple getting a baby from a vending machine. “I prefer the old fashioned way,” says Mr. 1930. Standard stuff; corny. Then Mr. 1930 asks where all the cars have gone. No one uses cars anymore, he’s told. Everyone has a plane. “Vut kind uff planes do you haf?” asks Mr. 1930. The boys list off all the hot models: the Finkelstine, the Rabovtiz, the Speigelmen, etc. In other words, all Jewish names.

“Ho boy,” says Mr. 1930. “Somebody got even with Henry Ford.”

Wow. That’s not just the most explicit reference to Ford’s anti-Semitism I’ve ever heard in a movie, it’s the only one. And in 1930! What a baseball bat to the knees that was.

The writer of the movie was also a songwriter, who wrote “Sunny Side Up,” “California Here I Come” and about ten billion other hits. Oh, and he co-founded Capitol records.

Linkage, if you're curious: Henry Ford v. Jews. Just Imagine. Buddy the writer.

Didn’t mention Halloween yesterday, because that’s last week’s news. Gnat had a wonderful time, trick or treating up the block. I stood outside shivering, listening to the radio. Most interesting costume of the year: A little boy came as a Crusader. Chain mail helmet, red robe with white cross, sword. I launched that candy into his bowl like a plague victim over the parapets! (Damn Terry Jones documentary; can’t get that out of my head. Even though I have now have a more balanced view of the Crusades. Which reminds me: the Strib ran a review, which I can’t find at present because I don’t know my logon to my own frickin’ newspaper [long story], of a new local production of Othello. The reviewer notes that there is an element to the story we often miss because we’re focused on Othy’s race. We forget he’s a Christian Moor, which meant that he converted, and now he’s a military man fighting the Turks, i.e. the Muselmen. One line in the review stood out:

The Pentagon, according to the article, is considering paying for a tour of the play around military bases.


Curse you, Terry Teachout! He alludes to an article he banged out about Paul Whiteman without telling us where it might be. Whiteman is one of those pivotal musical figures who get short shrift once their vogue passes and influence fades, but he always struck me as the Col. Parker of his day, inasmuch as he provided a bridge between musical cultures. Hey, it may be jazz, but don’t worry – I’m literally a Whiteman; you’ll be safe. Your wife will not succumb to the rhythms and run to Paris to dance with Josephine Baker. Worst case scenario,, she’ll take up smoking.

Anyway, Teachout and his cohort pen an excellent blog, About Last Night. I’ve been remiss in mentioning it, but when it comes to the Internet in general I am the epitome of remissness. This will change in 04, with v. 10.0 of the site. Caution: bookmarks may need to be changed. If you haven’t cut me from the bookmarks already, of course. But then you wouldn’t be – oh, never mind.

Gnatecdote for the day, and no, I will never use that word again. Gives me the heaves. Dry ones. We’re en route to the medium grocery store, that being Lund’s on Penn. The Small Grocery Store is the one down the street which charges $47 for lettuce but has free samples of bread; the Big Grocery Store is the Mothership, Byerly’s, in Edina. Different stores for different chores, to coin a lame aphorism. I don’t bribe her to go to the grocery store, unless she’s exceedingly cranky – then it’s the Big Grocery Store, where she can ride the carts with small truck cabs. Note to self: if I end up in hell, find the man who invented those carts. Deal with him. Anyway: en route we’re discussing what sucrose-and-corn-starch-based treat might follow if she stays in her bed all night.

I got some new treats, she said. Mommy got them.

Big surprise, that. "What are they?"

I don’t know. They turn kids’ heads into fruit.


They turn kids heads into fruit, daddee. An orange and a grape.

I remembered the ad. Indeed, young people’s craniums were turned into grotesque, gigantic fruits, with their features studded on the surface like coals set in a snowman’s face. Hideous. Gave me nightmares.

But would you like to have fruit for a head?


Which one?

A gwape.

What if someone ate it?

(Silence for three blocks.)

Why they do that?

Because you’d be a grape.

She dropped the subject. Lesson learned: transforming into hideous mutated fruit-headed creatures may look fun on TV, but in the real world you run the risk of being peeled.

And now back to work: three-column Monday, you know. Oy. Tomorrow: why I’m converting to Judiasm.

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