I have spent the day in cell phone hell. First of all I can’t make any calls on the damn thing. Just stopped working for no reason at all. But I got a new cell phone for Christmas and took it to the Apple store to get it activated and transfer the data from the old phone to the new one. O figured maybe the new phone would let me make calls again.

I will admit I’m not quite up to Luddite level when it comes to cell phones, but the guy who helped at the store was even more incompetent. He couldn’t transfer the data to the new phone. The phone kept saying Data Transfer Failed because there wasn’t enough storage space. Then he tried to get me to buy additional storage space at .99 cents a month. Fuggetaboudit.

Took the phone home and thought about he message concerning storage space and I remembered I had gotten messages before about having too many pictures stored. so I deleted some videos and tried it again and voila– data transferred successfully. Simple as that. But I still can’t make any calls.

Now I guess I’ll have to go to Verizon and find out why I can’t make any calls. That’ll be another adventure. Also the electric company came and turned off the power on our street because they are starting to put the cables underground. Screwed up my desk top. Had to update that as well.

Of course there’s an astrological reason for all this mayhem. Mercury is in retrograde motion. Should never deal with electronics or anything having to do with communication when Merc is going backward. Best wait until Mercury goes direct January 18. Maybe I’ll wait until then to go to Verizon. I never call anybody anyway.

Having a laugh at the Republicans and Democrats and their theater of the absurd vote for Speaker of the House. The Republicans keep re-nominating McCarthy knowing he doesn’t have enough votes to win. And just as ludicrous the Dems keep nominating Jeffries, who can’t win either.

Becket, Ionesco, or Pinter couldn’t dream up a more absurd scenario. It borders on a Twilight Zone episode, where in the end the “lawmakers” find themselves trapped in an endlessly repeating vote count for all eternity. With Rod Serling posing the question: “Anyone know where Luigi Pirandello is? We’ve got 500 characters here in search of a way out.”

But unfortunately, as Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, there is “No Exit.”

In honor of the season, here is a re-post of my annual Christmas Greeting– an excerpt from “Hunting Monsters Is My Business.”  Happy Holidays.

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Mordecai Slate, Doc Washburn, and the Reverend Powell rode on through the snow, the memory of what had occurred in Rio Muerto still blazing in their minds. The thick New Mexican snowflakes stung Slate’s cheek as he kept Dutch, his buckskin horse, set on course due north on the Camino Real. The doctor and the reverend followed in the wagon.

An hour later — the snow heavier, visibility almost zero — a dark shape loomed up ahead. As they approached, Slate saw it was a small lean-to built on the side of the road–a dilapidated relay station. There was someone inside. Two small figures huddled together, hidden in the dark interior of the lean to. They were behind a feed trough filled with straw. Two homeless Mexicans caught in the storm. Slate saw a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in the straw.

He dismounted and the other two men climbed down from the wagon. Slate saw that the Mexicans, a man and a woman, were very young, and the baby was newborn.

Slate and his companions stared down at them in silence. As poor and desperate as they were, there was something about them. Some kind of peaceful feeling seemed to surround the lean-to. After all that they, Slate and the others, had experienced in Rio Muerto, it was like a soothing balm that healed.

Slate took some of the gold coins Don Pedro had given him for hunting down Kord Manion and dropped them in the woman’s lap. Doc Washburn opened his bag and examined the child. He gave the woman some medicine for colic.

Reverend Powell stood over them, making a sign of the cross. The wind and snow howled mercilessly outside all around them.

Seasons Greetings from:

Tragon of Ramura, Mordecai Slate, Jack Brand, and Frank Carson, the Flying W Press gang.

Here we are five days from Christmas and I just discovered an article that appeared in the Washington Post last Sunday about Jean Shepherd and the stories he wrote that became the basis for “A Christmas Story ” –stories that not many people have ever actually read. It’s one of the best pieces I’ve come across that tells the Shepherd story pretty accurately, and delineates the difference between the movie version and what Shepherd wrote. As writer Samuel G. Freedman points out, the written version is a lot more realistic and somewhat grimmer than the holiday movie. Here’s a link to the article.

And here’s a link to the article I wrote about Shepherd for the Washington Post in 1999, shortly after Shepherd’s death, that tells a bit more about him and what he did nightly on his WOR radio program.

Hope you all have a great Christmas, and while you’re dreaming about that thing you want this Christmas, remember what everybody tried to tell Ralphie. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

I have to admit I wasn’t sure going in whether or not I’d like “A Christmas Story Christmas,” a belated sequel to the perennial holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” based on the writings of humorist Jean Shepherd. You see, Shep and I go back a long way. Not that I knew him personally–it just feels that way. In the 1960s during my high school and college years I used to listen to him on WOR-AM on my transistor radio up in my room in the long, dark New Jersey nights. He was on for about an hour every night and all he did was talk. But not just talk. He told stories, stories about growing up in Hammond, Ind., and stories of his days in the Army Signal Corp in World War II. He wrote books, made some movies for public television. It’s hard to explain what he did exactly. Marshall McCluhan said he was writing the great American novel night after night.

The point is, “A Christmas Story” is pretty much and American Classic, and I had my doubts that a new sequel would be any good at all. Especially when I learned that a lot of it had been filmed in Bulgaria and Hungary, instead of using the house in Cleveland, that was used in the original movie, and which still stands intact today, and has become a tourist attraction. The new movie starring the grown up Peter Billingsley as a grown up Ralphie would have to be pretty damn good to get a good review from me.

So how is it? Click here to read my review over on the Holly Jolly Cinema Retro website.

The story of the first Mormons to trek across desert and mountains to establish a community in Utah’s San Juan Valley is told in John Ford’s “WAGON MASTER.” You can read my review of this classic western starring Ben Johnson and Ward Bond today on Cinema Retro.

Watching the Royal funeral I got a sad feeling that today we may have witnessed Western Civilization’s last stand. The bagpipes, man. The bagpipes.

Stirling Silliphant was a Hollywood legend. He wrote a ton of movies and TV shows, including “Route 66” and “In the Heat of the Night,” and lived a life that was more like a movie script than real life. He was married four times, the fourth and final time to a young Vietnamese actress named Tiana Alexandra. He wrote parts for her in films like Sam Peckinpah’s “The Killer Elite,” and TV shows like “Pearl” and “The Three Kings.” In 1987 He wrote her a starring role in a martial arts crime flick called “Catch the Heat,” costarring with Rod Steiger and David Dukes.

Tiana plays Checkers Goldberg, a San Francisco cop who goes underground in Buenos Aires to catch Steiger, a drug kingpin masquerading as a talent agent, in a script that is a basically a sendup of ’80s action movies. In one thigh-crushing scene Checkers battles with Asian heavy Toru Tanaka (Subzero in The Running Man). Read my review of “Catch the Heat,” today over on Cinema Retro.

  • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Do not read , if you have not seen the Better Call Saul finale

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Everybody’s so down in the mouth about the ending of BETTER CALL SAUL, because Jimmy McGill faces life in a maximum security prison. Sure fans derive some comfort from Kim’s visit to the prison where they share a moment of heart-felt emotion, saying well at least they had that and Jimmy got to redeem all the bad things he did as Saul Goodman by sacrificing his plea deal to keep Kim out of jail. And it is like they are saying goodbye when she leaves the prison.

But everyone seems to have missed a key line of dialogue. When Kim says: “86 years”– the length of his sentence– Jimmy says: “Who knows? With time off for good behavior?” Sounds like he’s just making a joke. But Jimmy’s got a plan. No way he’ll do the time. There’s a sequel waiting out there. Jimmy always has a plan. Make book on it.

Quentin Tarantino has said he thinks the worst American movies were made in the 50s and the 80s. He dislikes 50s movies because of their blatant censorship and 80s movies because the central character always had to be likeable. On the Joe Rogan Experience he pointed out the difference between a Bill Murray movie and a Chevy Chase movie made in the 80s. Bill Murray’s characters always started out as assholes but became likeable by the end of the film. “Chevy Chase movies don’t play that shit,” Tarantino said. “Chevy Chase is the same supercilious asshole at the end of the movie that he is at the beginning.” He also decried the way movies in the 50s hardly ever cast Native Americans in Westerns.

All this is to say I’d bet Tarantino most likely would hate Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray release of Universal International’s “Foxfire” (1955), starring Jeff Chandler and Jane Russell. Read my review over on the CinemaRetro.com website.