From The Dream World Movie Guide: Armonk Calling


Armonk Calling. Strange, unsettling, faintly Altman-esque entry in the “Inept Invasions of America” comedy microgenre. The perfect surprise the Wehrmacht achieves by invading Manhattan in 1973 is defeated by the hassles of then-contemporary urban decay. Flashes of satirical insight in the modern-life-as-warfare theme give the film many chances, none quite capitalized on, to overcome the unease of the premise’s dubious taste. It’s an odd entry even for the experimental wing of 1970s American Cinema. Famously features Nick Offerman, much older than his age would suggest, as the teen who takes the invasion as his chance to throw dynamite into Times Square manholes to big and impressionistic effect. Suggestion: for a less troublesome project by nearly the same, supremely appealing, cast and crew try the family-fare yet affecting 1974 film The Cheesestronauts instead.

Playing about an hour before sunrise. Some scenes fragmentary.

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Notes From The Dream World: Al Roker Subway Nudity Something Or Other


So, if we can trust what I’m getting out of my dreams, apparently New York City has some portion of the subway system where there’s nice wide cement platforms elevated high enough that the entire train runs underneath the platform level. Probably there’s a way of getting into the trains underneath the concrete and you just use the very high platforms for getting around. It all seems kind of risky but you can hop from one platform side to the other when the train’s in the station, which is nice. Also, apparently, Al Roker’s going to spend a lot of time wandering around and waving merrily to people on top of the platform.

But there’ll be hazards yet, such as the several honor guard hollering at people to clear a swath about twenty feet wide to make way for the baggage being carried for His Majesty, the King of the Nuditarians. This is peculiar, since certainly I’d imagined the King of the Nuditarians didn’t need all that much luggage. I’d have guessed it at maybe a duffel bag for his gym shorts and a toothbrush. Maybe carry along a bowling ball-style bag for his crown. But the ways of royalty are strange, on the New York City subway or not.

You know, if it weren’t for the honor guard, I’d have suspected him of being an impostor.

Robert Benchley: The Most Popular Book Of The Month


[ In Of All Things, Robert Benchley includes a review of the phone book in a mode of deliberate misunderstanding that’s at least still current. Benchley though goes on at greater length with deeper thought than most people writing this sort of piece do, which is one of the things which made Robert Benchley turn out to be Robert Benchley, and includes one of his less-common but still popular pithy quotes. As he predicted elsewhere, though, the quote gets better if you take more than the single sentence from its paragraph. I confess also not being sure just what’s meant by “clb bdg stbls”. ]

New York City (including all Boroughs) Telephone Directory— N. Y. Telephone Co., N. Y. 1920. 8vo. 1208 pp.

IN picking up this new edition of a popular favorite, the reviewer finds himself confronted by a nice problem in literary ethics. The reader must guess what it is.

There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not. Both classes are extremely unpleasant to meet socially, leaving practically no one in the world whom one cares very much to know. This feeling is made poignant, to the point of becoming an obsession, by a careful reading of the present volume.

We are herein presented to some five hundred thousand characters, each one deftly drawn in a line or two of agate type, each one standing out from the rest in bold relief. It is hard to tell which one is the most lovable. In one mood we should say W. S. Custard of Minnieford Ave. In another, more susceptible frame of mind, we should stand by the character who opens the book and who first introduces us into this Kingdom of Make-Believe— Mr. V. Aagaard, the old “Impt. & Expt.” How one seems to see hinm, impting and expting all the hot summer day through, year in and year out, always beading the list, but always modest and unassuming, always with a kindly word and a smile for passers-by on Broadway!

Continue reading “Robert Benchley: The Most Popular Book Of The Month”

Robert Benchley: Highways and By-Ways in Old Fall River


This is another slice from Robert Benchley’s Of All Things, from among a set of very short pieces gathered under the general heading of “Tabloid Editions”, little things which ran in The Saturday Evening Post, or Harper’s Magazine or The American Magazine, and which strike me as representative of routine Benchley. This is an example of what feels to me like Benchley proving he could write as much of his kind of stuff as needed, even if the subject didn’t inspire lines that’d be quoted decades hence.

The chance visitor to Fall River may be said, like the old fisherman in Bartholomew Fair, to have “seen half the world, without tasting its savour.” Wandering down the Main Street, with its clanging trolley-cars and noisy drays, one wonders (as, indeed, one may well wonder) if all this is a manifestation so much of Fall River as it is of that for which Fall River stands.

Frankly, I do not know.

But there is something in the air, something ineffable in the swirl of the smoke from the towering stacks, which sings, to the rhythm of the clashing shuttles and humming looms, of a day when old gentlemen in belted raglans and cloth-topped boots strolled through these streets, bearing with them the legend of mutability. Perhaps “mutability” is too strong a word. Fall Riverians would think so.

And the old Fall River Line! What memories does that name not awaken in the minds of globetrotters? Or, rather, what memories does it awaken? William Lloyd Garrison is said to have remarked upon one occasion to Benjamin Butler that one of the most grateful features of Fall River was the night-boat for New York. To which Butler is reported to have replied : “But, my dear Lloyd, there is no night-boat to New York, and there won’t be until along about 1875 or even later. So your funny crack, in its essential detail, falls flat.”

But, regardless of all this, the fact remains that Fall River is Fall River, and that it is within easy motoring distance of Newport, which offers our art department countless opportunities for charming illustrations.