It did snow, a lot, and April the Very First was a fargin’ winter wonderland, without any of the “wonder” or seasonal swooning people get when the world is freshly whitened. We knew it would melt soon, but insult, injury, etc.

Speaking of which: Wife saved a Robin. Or perhaps not. She was outside during a break from work and saw a robin hopping around in the backyard, with a stick stuck to its side at an odd angle. Being who she is, she wondered if she could relieve the bird of this encumbrance, and moved closer. The bird shrieked and hopped away, but eventually she got close and tried to see why the stick was stuck to the bird. As she told the story she held up the stick, which she’d placed on the back steps. It was about 11 inches long, and very sharp on one end.

“It was impaled?” I said.

“It went right through him.”

“Don’t assume its gender.”

“And it’s just hopping around like it doesn’t know it has a stick through it.”

“Well, the phrase ‘bird brain’ was coined for a reason. It lacked the cognitive ability to realize it was stuck with a stick.”

“I had to hold the robin with one hand and just pull it out,” she said, astonished even in the retelling.

“And now you’re queen of England. Or the robins of England. Did it survive?”

“Well that’s the thing, it hopped around for a while, and I went inside, and when I came back there were two robins.”

“Bird EMT! This fall on Fox!”

“One was fat, and I didn’t think that was the one I pulled the stick out of, but it could’ve been. When I came out later both were gone, and I thought, well, hooray, it flew off. So maybe it didn’t hit any vital organs, but it was right through it.”

“I think evolution has arranged it so they’re all vital organs in a robin, there’s not a lot of spare room. I don’t know, maybe they have appendixes and tonsils.”

This stayed with her for the rest of the day, I swear. I hope the robin survived, but it is a perfectly apt Minnesota Spring Tale. A chirpy sign of the new season of life, impaled by a smooth pointed stick.

And now, a new monthly feature.

A newspaper syndicate in 1922 asked a variety of thinkers and notables what the world would be like in a hundred years. Let's see how that played out.


He’s on to something here. He’s wrong about the trains. But given his old job, you can understand the rail-centric take.

The . . . the movement of the dies?

I think he meant seas.


He’s on to something here, too.

  And here.

By the way, Walker D. Hines would be known to people for his role in the period when the government nationalized the railroads - something we tend forget.

In December, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson nationalized most U.S. railroads under the United States Railroad Administration. William G. McAdoo was made director general, Hines agreed to become assistant director general. McAdoo resigned in January, 1919, and Hines stepped in as director general for the remainder of nationalization under the Railroad Administration, which ended on March 1, 1920.

The fact that it ended is surprising, no? And heartening. Even its defenders knew it went against the American grain.





I discovered this one in a backwards fashion. A YouTube search took me to the second movie in the series.

Sounds good! Let’s take a look, I thought.

Well, it’s absolutely typical stuff, from the production values to the script to the running length. What’s interesting, and even then only slightly if you’re not inclined to accumulate details of the culture before the war, was this:

Each film was based on a popular mystery novel that had been published in hardcover under Doubleday's Crime Club imprint. You could buy Crime Club books at bookstores or get them in the mail as a subscriber. Beginning in 1928, Crime Club released four books per month. One book each month was designated the "Crime Club Selection," and that book was automatically sent to subscribers, just like the Book of the Month club.

Like the Columbia Record Club! The Crime Club was also a radio show in the mid 40s, so the idea had some persistence.

Two things before we get back to the Crime Club. One: our hero is a drunk, and likes to take naps. But he also solves crimes with brilliant and ingenious deductions! But he also likes to drink. The novelist liked the mixture of “hardboiled crime fiction and elements of screwball comedy,” and I guess there’s a place for it.

The detective has a sidekick, of course, and I love this guy: all wise-guy ham.

Frank Jenks. Tight little imdb bio:

After his family settled in Los Angeles, he attended the University of Southern California. He learned to play trumpet, trombone and clarinet, but eventually dropped out of college and embarked on leading a band on the West Coast vaudeville circuit. He then took the next step and became a song-and-dance man.

From being a hoofer, he made his way to the legitimate stage and from there to movies, at first playing orchestra leaders. While this required little acting ability, he soon came into his own as a comic actor, his cinematic stock-in-trade being fast talking reporters (his caustic delivery was used to best effect in His Girl Friday), droll Runyonesque henchmen, cabbies, grifters, cops, bartenders and drunks. His improvisational acumen in adding his own routines to varied comedy scripts led to his receiving Hollywood's sobriquet as "off-the-cuff Jenks”.

And then there’s our bargain-basement Mae West, Babs Pepper.

She hit the skids after the 40s. Husband was killed in ’49, she had a two kids to raise, and a taste for the hooch. Ended up a laundress, but still had occasional roles on Lucy and Perry Mason, eventually ending up as the mom of Arnold the Pig on Green Acres. She was replaced when her health failed, and checked out at 59 in 1969.

Finally, here’s the logo for the series of Crime Club movies. There were 11 in all. It may take you a while, or you may see it right away. It’s either brilliant or the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen, and possibly both.

See it?

Now two ways to chip in!

That will do. Another week on the Bleat begins. Well, has begun. Okay, is one-fifth over. Head off to the grocery department of the Matchbook Museum, if you wish. One small folder in a distant corner of the site . . . and there are 173 pages, so far.



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