Atomic Ranch Magazine: Mid-Century Immersion

Atomic Ranch Magazine – Midcentury Marvels – Two-Year Subscription (8 Issues) @ $36.95 (US).



Pros: Targets Boomers who lived mid-century.  Monthly features such as Home Page and Ranch Dressing connect to readers.  Contains a subtle application of relevant advertising.  Superb photography and feature articles make this an archival-quality publication.

Cons: Not all Boomers who lived it loved it.  Aside from the purpose of historical documentation, some aspects of Mid-Century Modernism are unattractive, impractical or otherwise forgettable.  Published quarterly – fans have a long wait between issues.  Per-issue pricing is $6.95 (US/Can) at the newsstand – though the two-year subscription discount drops this to $4.62.

In my quiet suburban hometown, North Street Circle was the place to be.  The tiny, two-bedroom ranches that appeared to satisfy the housing needs of returning veterans had since been modified to accommodate the protracted gaggle of Boomer babies.  Across town, the Veteran’s Project offered more of the same.

Living Larger

In the 1960s, local cornfields became the venue for treeless yards featuring dwellings of brick, steel, stone and glass.  Both the disposition and square footage of the lowly ranch was now raised – allowing for game rooms and wet bars in which to entertain within the new-found freedom of the open-concept.

What may appear to be an era of conformity to some was remarkably creative in its architectural diversity.  Atomic Ranch Magazine artistically documents the romance and reality of this pivotal, post-war period.

Summer 2015

Using the latest issue as a guide, we find publisher Jim Brown’s tribute to the ultimate episode of Mad Men – the elegant, period-suspect soap opera (with a great opening credit sequence) that I abandoned post-first season.  Four well-illustrated pages of letters-to-the-editor follow.  To their credit, those with a gripe (can such a magazine be too upscale?) receive no short-shrift.

Back issues of Atomic Ranch gather appropriately before my period Laurel Brutalist lamp.
Back issues of Atomic Ranch gather appropriately before my period Laurel Brutalist lamp.

The first of five featured articles uses fourteen uninterrupted pages to illustrate and describe two California homes that fit the Mid-Century Modern (MCM)  profile.  Many of the dwellings that have seen print in previous issues are period-correct – down to the original blue linoleum countertops – though many with MCM bones are hybrids that feature modern kitchens and updates to heating, plumbing and electrical systems.  In the profiles that follow, similar descriptive competence is bestowed upon homes in Michigan, Toronto and Houston.

My pick for Best Feature is a ten-page spread titled Domestic Goddesses – where period (1948 through the 60s) print ads for home appliances surround informative text.  For all its nostalgic appeal, the Art Deco Cool of the 1948 Kelvinator fridge does not necessarily extend to the freezer compartment.

Did you know that the Kelvinator Foodarama, introduced in 1955, was the first side-by-side refrigerator-freezer?  To my surprise and delight, the stainless industrial look of my contemporary, counter-depth Fisher & Paykel bottom-freezer unit mimics the mid-50s Thermador Masterpiece that appears on page 40.

Does my 5-year-old Fisher and Paykel look 60 to you?
Does my 5-year-old Fisher and Paykel look 60 to you?

Books and Backs

A bit of deserved self-promotion occurs with a page of available AR back issues.  A pair of Atomic books from the team that brings you AR magazine are forever dwelling upon Palm Springs Architecture and Atomic Interiors.

Cool Stuff

The GE Monoblock MicroKitchen (which is still in the R&D stage) is the current occupant of this occasional feature.  Available for the cost of a decent used car, this product is essentially an update of the semi-successful 1950s conglomeration that squeezes all your appliances into a solo module for dwellers who suffer a dearth of kitchen footprint.

Ranch Dressing is a fun feature that allows befuddled fans of MCM to submit a photo and description of odd or obscure flea market finds for clues from whence they came.  The staff does the legwork, but readers often impart their wisdom, in subsequent issues, as to an item’s origins.  Anyone who has ever perused the MCM inventory at eBay will appreciate RD‘s potential.

Can the experts at Atomic Ranch unearth the history behind my epic eBay lighting discovery? Stay tuned - better yet... subscribe!
Can the experts at Atomic Ranch unearth the history behind my epic eBay lighting discovery? Stay tuned – better yet… subscribe!

House Rules

Every cool Atomic Ranch needs a sharp lamp.
Every cool Atomic Ranch needs a sharp lamp.

If your current dwelling qualifies as MCM, show your pride and send a photo and brief description.  Home Page publishes three such summaries per issue.

Mid-Centurions Unite

Atomic Events combines upcoming gatherings of interest to Mid-Century Modernists.  This issue includes a total of ten occurring from early June through November – all located within the continental United States.

Atomic Ranch Magazine is available at select newsstands and bookstores for the $6.95 (US/Canada) cover price.  A one-year subscription (4 issues) is currently $19.95 (US) – two-years (8 total issues) for $36.95 – one-third below the cover price (Canadian rates higher).


My Mid-Century Mindset

Atomic Ranch Magazine – love it for its quality, lush and romantic approach, but keep that level head below the clouds.  If MCM lifts your poodle skirt, be informed of the potential pitfalls.  Many period examples suffer from issues related to age, poor upkeep and the initial application of sub-par materials and build-quality.

Despite these obstacles, preservation is essential – the razing of period architecture for the space to accommodate the scourge of McMansionism is a sad footnote to the era as a whole and to our childhood memories, in particular.

Five stars for the entertaining and informative Atomic Ranch approach to historic preservation.

All images generated by the author.

Atomic Ranch Magazine
P.O. Box 9624
Ft. Lauderdale, FL  33310-9624

The Lutron Toggler CL: Dimmable Brilliance

Lutron Toggler CL Dimmer for CFL and LED Bulbs – Model # TGCL-153-PH in Ivory.



Pros: Works with compatible LEDs – as well as with most lesser, obsolete bulbs.  Toggle style resembles a standard switch.  Low-end of dimmable range is adjustable.  Satisfies single-pole or 3-way applications.

Cons: Multiple product revisions require consumer research before purchasing – early production runs had quality issues.  Consumer must match LED/dimmer compatibility by brand and model.  Like LED bulbs, premium prices prevail.

The appropriate selection and application of lighting can enhance whatever period or style of abode you prefer.  When constructed, my current contemporary surroundings were fitted with the most basic of fixtures, due to cost overruns incurred by the original owner.  Since taking possession, my challenge has been to execute a quality lighting upgrade to enhance the interior’s architectural assets.

Recessed ceiling cans provide an economical, effective light source - but their lack-of-character screams 1980s.
Recessed ceiling cans provide an economical, effective light source – but their lack-of-character screams 1980s.

Bulbous Banter

The current state of LED lighting is one of perpetual flux.  The high cost of LED bulbs is easing as research and development costs are recouped by manufacturers as the technology improves.  Superior in nearly every way, the LED (light emitting diode) has rendered the incandescent and compact fluorescent technology to that of the 8-track tape player, circa 1980.

Mid-Century Mania

My level-3 dining area is part of an open-concept floor plan.  The former owner hung a huge Art Deco fixture over the dining table that over-lit the space and blocked the site-lines toward the mountain views beyond.  Fact is, I strongly disliked it and hardly ever put it on.  I recently changed this out for a more compact, Atomic-era down-light pendant that would make George Jetson proud.

The Glow-In-The-Dark Retro Atomic Pendant Light is the current light of my life.
This Vintage, Glow-In-The-Dark Retro Atomic Pendant is the current light of my life.

Glow And Go

My LED of choice was the 2700K, 15-watt Philips A-21, delivering 1180 lumens (equivalent in output and color temperature to a 75-watt incandescent).  Due to design discrepancies among manufacturers, dimmable LEDs require the use of ‘leading edge dimmers’.  I chose the Lutron Toggler C-L dimmer because of its broad availability (Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s) and the inclusion of the A-21 on the Lutron list of compatible bulbs.

The Philips A-21 in orbit. [Image: Philips via]
The Philips A-21 prepares to dock. [Image: Philips via]

Both the switches for the dining room pendant and the recessed bar cans share a plastic 2-gang box.  Until recently, the dimmer switch for the bar’s ceiling lights shared space with a standard switch.  With the dining room pendant now in play, the challenge was to fit the pair of wider dimmers into the box.

My 2-Gang gang in their new home. The subtle difference between the Ivory [left] and the Almond [right] seems to have escaped me at the time of purchase.
My 2-Gang gang in its new home. The subtle difference between the Ivory [left] and the Almond [right] seems to have escaped me at the time of purchase. Note black dim-adjustment dial upgrade to the right of the switch.
Using both sides of the 16 x 16-inch sheet of trilingual instructions, I successfully wired and installed the new dimmer.  Not only did the new UFO-inspired fixture shine bright upon the tabletop, its frosted, plate-glass rings of Saturn glowed in all directions.  My formerly gloomy corner was now space-alien approved.

Buyer Beware

Due to early production bugs, the Lutron Toggler C-L 153-PH has been subjected to at least three revisions since its introduction.  I was never totally satisfied with the first dimmer purchased.  At certain settings, the Lutron-approved Philips BR30 LED Floods would exhibit a subtle flicker – though they never experienced drop-out or buzzing, as some consumers have claimed.

The Philips 13-Watt BR30 at rest. [Image: Philips via]
The Philips 13-Watt BR30 at rest. [Image: Philips via]
There was also a quality issue with a failure of the inadequate dim-range adjustment wheel, which is used to fine-tune a particular bulb’s lowest possible setting.  The latest model upgrade sports a more durable and practical black adjustment dial and a green ground wire in place of the original white wheel and green ground screw.

The simplest method of verifying a dimmer’s update status is to check for the presence of a black adjustment dial.  A slight separation of the packaging’s flexible plastic cover will allow for this inspection – the dial is located to the right of the switch.

White Dimmer Adjustment Wheel indicates undesirable early production version.
White Dimmer Adjustment Wheel indicates undesirable early production version.

While installing the new dimmer, I changed-out the problematic, early-production model for one of the current generation.  Both of the new dimmers have a more quality feel to the slide and allow the LED to deliver a stable illumination throughout the dimming range.


Don’t Be A Dim Bulb

Early Production Green Ground Screw was replaced by a Green Ground Wire - which makes more sense in a 2-Gang application.
Early Production Green Ground Screw was replaced by a Green Ground Wire – which makes more sense in a 2-Gang application.

The key to success lies in the details.  Find the style of dimmer you prefer, then check the ratings and LED compatibility for that brand and model.  For example, if you click on the above Amazon link and scroll down to Technical Specification, you will find two PDF lists that are organized alphabetically by bulb brand and model.  All brands of dimmers will feature a similar list at their respective websites.

The Lutron Toggler C-L 153-PH is currently available at in White and Ivory.  These colors plus Almond are available at the aforementioned Big Box Hardware outlets.

The Mother Ship upon re-entry.
The Mother Ship upon re-entry.

A One-Year Warranty is standard with a complimentary 2nd year granted upon product registration.

The One-Year Warranty becomes a Two-Year just by registering your Lutron Dimmer online. [Image: Lutron Electronics]
The One-Year Warranty becomes Two just by registering your Lutron Dimmer online. [Image: Lutron Electronics]

Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.
Coopersburg, PA  18036

Cold Hearted by Beverly Barton – Skip this soap opera.

Cold Hearted by Beverly Barton




Pros: started out Ok

Cons: but I quickly lost interest

Started out Ok, and I was genuinely intrigued.  But then it dragged on.  And on and on.  Until, by the end, I had lost interest.

I’m talking about Beverly Barton’s Cold Hearted.  You’ve got a main character who’s either a beloved saint or a cruel serial killer.  Or both.  Then you’ve got her wacky family members who rally around her.  Extolling her virtues.  All while a bunch of people who get close to her find themselves dead.

Why is Jordan leaving behind a trail of dead people?  Some weird coincidence, or is Jordan, herself, a murderer?  Or, is someone else doing the killing… And if so, what could possibly be their motive?  These are the questions keeping Rick up at night.  Hired to get to the truth, he doesn’t know which way to turn, who to trust.  But this doesn’t stop him from falling in love with Jordan, or from hopping into her bed.  After all, that’s what every investigator does, when he’s unsure if the woman is a murderer.  End eye-rolling now.

Basically, you end up with a soap opera.  By this, I mean there are tons of characters and none of them are exactly who they appear to be.  Each has secrets, each has their own stuff going on.  And then there’s one character to whose private thoughts we are privy.  We don’t know exactly who she is, just that she’s a she, and she’s the murderer.  Whether she’s Jordan, or someone else we’ve come to know, we have no idea.  We just know she’s out there, and she’s planning her next move.

All of this could have made for a fun book. Except that the characters were absolutely awful.  There was not a one I particularly liked or trusted.  None felt real. Frankly, they came off more like cartoons than real people.  With such a group of nincompoops running around, the story just kept going on and on, and I completely lost interest.

Finally, thankfully, it ended. And what a disappointing ending.  I kept waiting for a great payoff.  Something that would make the previous 400 pages of nonsense all worth it. But such never came.

Skip Cold Hearted.


Also by Beverly Barton:

Silent Killer

Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa: Sugar At Cocoa Prices

Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Baking Cocoa – 10.5 Ounce




Pros: Just okay when used as a base for a hot chocolate beverage.  Makes the case for convenience vs. practicality for the non-baker.

Cons: Sugar is the first listed ingredient – a condition not clearly indicated on the product’s front panel.  Product contains Dutch Process vs. Natural cocoa.  Contains the emulsifier Soy Lecithin.

Trips to the grocery store become routine when food allergies are an issue.  Since its inception, my secret chocolate cake recipe has benefited greatly from the inclusion of Hershey’s Natural Cocoa.  With this product currently out-of-stock, I noticed the elegant gold presence of Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa adjacent to the Hershey’s empty parking spot.  Assuming the titular reference to ‘sweet’ was on-par with ‘semi-sweet’, I decided to give it a try.


When the time came to bake, I re-discovered the need to read labels on unfamiliar products.  My initial belief that the front panel indicated 100% ground cocoa was in error.  The ‘sweet’ was in fact a reference to the dominance of refined white sugar – with Dutch Process cocoa listed as the second ingredient.

Recipes and other useful info. [Image: Ghirardelli via]
Recipes and other useful info. [Image: Ghirardelli via]
 For those unfamiliar, Dutch Process is a method of making Natural cocoa less acidic by treating it with a chemical alkali.  This action has been shown to cause a significant reduction in the cocoa’s flavanol content – those antioxidant enablers that make natural (especially dark) chocolate the ultimate healthy, heavenly treat.  While it has yet to cause an adverse reaction, many of the Dutch Process cocoas on the market also display a mild chemical aftertaste that is not otherwise found in premium Natural Process cocoa.  Fortunately, the negative effect achieved is more aesthetic than allergic.


Some Hot Chocolate Cake to complement your Beverage? [Image:]
Some Hot Chocolate Cake to complement your Beverage? [Image:]
In my world, the method of choice when constructing a winning cup of hot cocoa is simple – in a heat-proof bowl, take chunks of premium dark and semi-sweet chocolate immersed in milk, add a pinch of sea salt and apply heat.  Whisk thoroughly to incorporate, while adding a tablespoon of powdered natural cocoa.  Heat an additional minute and whisk once again before serving.

Sweet Surrender

The Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa reviewed here contains enough added sugar to require recipe revisions in the form of the Unsweetened Cocoa Substitution recommendation found on the back label:  “For each half cup Unsweetened Cocoa, use one cup of Sweet Ground Cocoa and decrease the amount of sugar the recipe calls for by one-half cup”.  Despite followed this confection correction when I assembled the next chocolate cake, the result was slightly sweeter than anticipated.

Behold the Informed Consumer. [Image: Ghirardelli via]
Behold the Informed Consumer. [Image: Ghirardelli via]
In my opinion, the Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa was too sweet for my baking needs, or for brewing a quality pot of hot chocolate, so I used the remainder of the 10.5 ounce package to make a glaze for the chocolate cake – where the excess sugar content could be more easily regulated by the unsweetened chocolate.  According to the Nutrition Facts located on the rear panel, one serving (3 Tablespoons) equals 27 grams of sugar.  Since a teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams, this indicates that 7 of the 9 teaspoons of product contained in a single serving constitute sugar.

You are entering another dimension... [Image: Ghirardelli via]
You are entering another dimension… [Image: Ghirardelli via]
Brownie Points

Also located on the back panel is a recipe for Ghirardelli Award Winning Brownies.  I am a big fan of their superior brownie mixes – especially the Double Chocolate variety.  Question is – with such a convenient boxed brownie bonanza at hand, why bother fussing with a recipe?  Some things simply cannot be improved upon.  Ghirardelli also excels with its line of Milk, Semi-Sweet and Dark Chocolate Chips.

To their credit, there's no mistaking what's in this package. [Image: Ghirardelli via]
To their credit, there’s no mistaking what’s in this package. [Image: Ghirardelli via]

I’m sure, as with any marketed product, there exists a legion of satisfied customers who enjoy Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa – as long as we all take the time to read the label and know what we’re buying.

Distributed by Ghirardelli Chocolate Company
San Leandro, CA  94578  U.S.A.

Dostoyevsky’s breakthrough?

Dostoevskij_1863Notes from the Underground



Pros: ?

Cons: style, content, etc.

My Russian-born, Russian-literature-loving violin teacher, Odelia Erdos, first introduced me to the standard Russian literature question: “Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy?” As a high school student I had not yet read Turgenev, but was already able to answer: “No! Gogol!”

I recently was disappointed reading a new translation of Dead Souls, and prompted by the movie adaptation with Jesse Eisenberg of Dostoyevsky’s novella “The Double,” read it, and reluctantly went on to (re?)read “Notes from Underground.” I would now answer the “eternal question”: “No, Turgenev!” and still prefer the fictions of Nikolia Gogol (1809-52) (and the stories of Alexander Pushkin [1799-1837] and A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov [1814-41]) to the fictions of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-81), knowing that many lovers of literatures, including Mrs. Erdos admired Dostoyevsky very much. (Her answer was “Dostoyevsky” over Tolstoy. She read them in Russian, whereas then I had to read both in translations by Constance Gannett who made them sound the same, that is, in her style (as Joseph Brodsky complained, “The reason English-speaking readers can barely tell the difference between Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky is that they aren’t reading the prose of either one. They’re reading Constance Garnett.”*). I now have the more accurate 2009 Penguin Classic translation by Ronald Wilk with an illuminating exposition of Dostoyevsky’s philosophy by Robert Louis Jackson.)

I feel that I am in danger of drowning in some of the multipage paragraphs of tortured musings of “Notes from Underground” as in the earlier (1846, pre-Siberia) “The Double”. If only I could read them as satire rather than self-lacerating dread! (as I am able to do in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, influenced though Ellison surely was by “Notes from Underground”)

“Notes from Underground” was published in 1862 in two installments in Dostoyevsky’s magazine Epokha (Epoch). Though both are in the voice of a painfully socially inept retired (at age 40) and unnamed minor civil servant in St. Petersburg, I don’t see the first part as having a narrative, even sort of alternatingly rambling and strangled account of the second part. Rather, it is an attack on rationalist utilitarian philosophy, in particular What Is to Be Done? by Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky, an 1863 response to Turgenev’s 1862 novel Fathers and Sons. Part One derides utopian visions (Chernyshevsky ‘s Crystal Palace, an example that will return at the end of Part Two).

Part 2: “Apropos of the Wet Snow” recalls humiliations: first an officer who moved the narrator out of his way without acknowledging him, a dinner party of some 30-something men who had been schoolmates (an event whose starting time has been changed without telling the narrator and moves on from where it moved onto before he arrives at the second venue) and a hysterical (very male hysteria) account of first interrogating then lecturing a young prostitute named Liza. The debacle of the party is very similar to the one into which the awkward low-level bureaucrat protagonist of “The Double” barged into and through.

Near the cessation (the novella cannot be said to have an ending) of the memoir, the narrator provides an auto-critique that I endorse:

“It seems that writing them [the notes from underground] in the first place was a mistake. At least I felt ashamed the whole time I was writing this tale. That means it is not literature, but corrective punishment… Telling a long story bout how I missed out on life in my corner through moral decay, through lack of human contact, through losing the habit of living and through my narcissistic, underground spite—God, that’s of no interest! A novel needs a hero but I’ve deliberately gathered together all the features of an anti-hero”… one less interesting to me than those of later writers like Camus and Sartre, all the more since the narrator then expands from “I” to “we.”

*In The Translator and the Text, Rachel May frames translations into English of Russian literature “less as a substitute for the original works than as a subset of English literature, with its own cultural, stylistic, and narrative traditions.”

(Photo of Dostoyevsky at the end of 1862, long in the public domain)

Jeep Wrangler JK Shift Boot Blues: The Rugged Ridge Remedy

Rugged Ridge JK Billet Black Aluminum Console Shift Bezel #11422.12 For Manual Transmission – Model Years 2007-10




Pros: Heavy duty machined aluminum bezel is solid, functional and attractive.  Hardware and installation sheet are included.

Cons: Made necessary by Jeep‘s initial lack of quality control.  Pricy for what it is – but by far the best of the lot.

In about a month’s time, it will be five years since I purchased my six-speed manual Jeep Wrangler JK.  Aside from being the most enjoyable and unstoppable vehicle I’ve ever owned, it has also proven to have been the most reliable.  Sure – here in the snow-belt I’ve had to replace the rear brake calipers due to corrosion – but no significant expenditures have occurred beyond the realm of routine maintenance.

Shifting the Blame

In the course of one recent drive, the rubber shift-boot’s leading edge popped-out from below the plastic bezel that anchors it to the console.  Chrysler‘s cheapo plastic rivets that secured the upper and lower bezel were beginning to fail.  Not a major issue, for sure – but continued use in such a compromised condition could rip the boot mounting holes clear to the edge – adding the cost of boot replacement to that of the bezel.

Exhibit A: My Re-Bezeled Jeep JK Sahara. [Image: J. Nine]
Exhibit A: My Re-Bezeled Jeep JK Sahara. [Image: J. Nine]
Of course, I could have simply disassembled the components and replaced the defective plastic fasteners.  There was nothing wrong with the original equipment plastic bezel – other than it never met the standard of the interior’s otherwise quality accessories.

Jeep JK Shift Boot with Original Equipment Plastic Bezel. [Image:]
Jeep JK Shift Boot with Original Equipment Plastic Bezel. [Image:]
 An online search of Jeep JK aftermarket parts could literally take days – with the proper financial means you could built a complete vehicle from one catalog alone.  Ironically, in this instance the choices were limited.

My Jeep JK Shift Boot after installation of the Better Bezel.
My Jeep JK Shift Boot after installation of the Better Bezel.


My inventory of Wrangler catalogs contained mostly chromed trim-piece examples of stick-on bling.  Since my situation was structural and not cosmetic, I went with the more substantial Rugged Ridge JK Billet Black Aluminum Console Shift Bezel Manual [Model Years] 07-10 – available for $46.99 (US) at

When it came time to order, I was confronted with (and accepted) the option of buying a returned and repackaged bezel whose condition was rated ‘Very Good’ for ten bucks less.  I had accumulated close to twenty bucks in Amazon points, which brought the grand total spent to around $18.  Amazon Prime handled the shipping.


As I carried the package to the house, I could hear a few pieces of unrestrained hardware rattling-about.  Fortunately, all eight of the black, 8mm allen-head screws and conventional nuts remained within the box throughout the journey from Amazon‘s Kentucky facility to the foothills of Maine.  The only thing missing was one washer, which was the sole part slim enough to fall through the box’s bottom seam.  The bezel itself remained flawless inside its sealed plastic bag.


Thanks to Rugged Ridge and the Bargain Bin, it was not necessary to float a loan to afford a bezel upgrade.
Thanks to Rugged Ridge and the Bargain Bin, it was not necessary to float a loan to afford a bezel upgrade.

In anticipation of the part’s arrival, I had unfastened the lower plastic bezel from the console and used a punch to remove what remained of the broken plastic rivets.  I then sandwiched the boot perimeter between the new upper and original lower bezel.  With the holes aligned from all three components, the next step was to insert one of the 8mm bolts, slide on the washer and hand-tighten the nut.  Once all eight were prepared, an applied allen wrench held the bolt steady while an 8mm open-end snugged the nut from beneath.

Rugged Ridge includes an illustrated, two-sided sheet of assembly instructions consisting of five total steps.  Also listed are both company phone and e-mail contacts – should technical assistance be required.

Wrangler Reboot

The completed structure was easily aligned within the console’s oval cut-out, then pressed firmly downward at the rear to anchor the two plastic tabs.  Within thirty minutes time I had accomplished a level of quality that Chrysler should have originally realized on the assembly line.

With a finish that resembles oiled bronze, my new oval shifter trim plays nicely with the medium gray interior appointments and black floor mats.  Best of all – no more floppy boot!

Guaranteed Not to Need

Details of the 5-year Limited Warranty for what is essentially a machined metal ring can be accessed via PDF from the Amazon link located above.

Rugged Ridge, a division of Omix-ADA, Inc.

Featured Image:  Rugged Ridge

getTV: Sony’s Post-Columbian Renaissance

getTV Network


Pros: Free-TV – Broadcasting vintage Columbia films via digital sub-channel.  Columbia Pictures produced a quantity of quality entertainment in their glory days.

Cons: Repetitive showings.  Mid-scene commercial placement.  Columbia Pictures includes a few forgettable films in the schedule rotation.

The age of 21st century broadcasting has given birth to the digital sub-channel.  By government decree, your local station has scrapped its clunky analog signal for the sleeker, slimmer digital version – liberating sufficient bandwidth to allow for a spawn of surrogate channels to proliferate.

Can you getTV?

The 1989 acquisition of Columbia Pictures by Sony Electronics included a catalog of feature films and short subjects whose numbers are estimated to be in excess of 3,500.  On February 3rd, 2014, Sony entered the sub-digital fray with the introduction of getTV as the catalog’s catalyst.  Despite efforts to reveal any applied acronymic significance to the getTV name, it simply appears that factors such as memorability and brevity were paramount.

As of this posting, getTV network is available in nearly 80 markets, nationwide.

Cast & Crew

Despite its Poverty Row origins, superb directors and performers such as Frank Capra and Barbara Stanwyck promptly positioned Columbia as one of the industry’s premiere studios.  Though M-G-M had an unbeatable stable-of-stars, Columbia‘s slouch-proof rookie ranks featured the likes of William Holden, Glenn Ford, Rita Hayworth, Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak.  Veteran refugees from RKO –  including Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Robert Mitchum – offer an additional degree of gravitas.


While RKO Radio has its fine film noir catalog and Universal its horror, Columbia mogul Harry Cohn (1891-1958) favored no particular genre – resulting in a prolific cross-section of most.  Early horse-operas were the low-budget cash-cows that filled theater seats.  Sony now hopes that otherwise idle weekend viewers will once again partake of their white-hatted Durango Kid – and the often incongruous comic relief of singing cowboy Smiley Burnette – with its dedicated Saturday marathon of oaters.

Until recently, Thursday prime-time featured the films of one particular performer per month.  Most notable were the dozen-plus noir mysteries from the Boston Blackie series (1941-47), where Chester Morris plays the reformed jewel thief with tongue-in-cheek and a heart of gold.

RKO Radio did film noir proud, but so did Columbia. Image: Columbia Pictures
RKO Radio did film noir proud, but so did Columbia. Image: Columbia Pictures

Perhaps less notable was Bogie’s recent turn.  One of his early films – Love Affair (1932) – was produced at Columbia – and later his Santana production company used the studio as distributor – but his best years were spent at Warner Bros.  This notwithstanding, Columbia enables a memorable cinematic moment such as occurs in Dead Reckoning (1947), when Bogart and Lizabeth Scott (driving a now-priceless, hand-built Lincoln Continental with a deceased bartender in the trunk) are stopped by a motorcycle cop for running a red light – as they chain-smoke and vamp through some equally classic dialogue.


Resplendent in lapping waves of muted orange and silver, the getTV format is jazzy, upscale and unique.  This motif is repeated as the foundation of its excellent website, where comprehensive movie schedules, featured players and a list of participating markets can be accessed.

The Good

Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die - A Columbia Classic. (Image: Columbia Pictures via Wikimedia Commons)
Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die – A Columbia Classic. (Image: Columbia Pictures via Wikimedia Commons)

Free-TV and the subsequent broadening of one’s options are most always an asset.  Though referred to in this household as the All Columbia All The Time channel, many of the more obscure films featured would be otherwise unavailable in any format.  I was sufficiently enamored with the Dino De Laurentiis spy spoof Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die (1966), that I checked its format availability at  To my disappointment, only the theatrical lobby poster emerged as the result of my search.  If not for getTV and a trickle of electricity, I would be a substantially less entertained human than I currently am.

The Better

Considering their collective ages, the films broadcast on the getTV network are in excellent physical condition.  To our viewing pleasure, there’s no telling what obscure, bizarre or previously unknown cinematic nugget may appear.

“When Gidget goes Hawaiian, she goes all the way” – Title theme lyric from Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961).

Don't try this without Annette! (Image: Columbia Pictures via Wikimedia Commons)
Don’t try this without Annette! (Image: Columbia Pictures via Wikimedia Commons)

The surf was up in a major way at Columbia in the early sixties.  A gaggle of Gidgets (including Deborah Walley and Sandra Dee) lined-up to romance the ever-warbling Moondoggie (James Darren), while teen idols Tab Hunter, Fabian, Shelley Fabares and Barbara Eden gathered for the semi-classic Ride The Wild Surf (1964) – one of the better genre entries of the period.

The Irksome

Despite witnessing the occasional Screen Gem, we have all experienced one or two performers who underwhelm.  Couple this with a serious bout of repetitive airings and a second-helping of The Way We Were (1973) assumes all the digestibility of last night’s batter-fried squid.

Ride The Wild Surf - One of the best of its genre and a getTV standard. Image: Columbia Pictures via Wikimedia Commons.
Ride The Wild Surf – One of the best of its genre and a getTV standard. Image: Columbia Pictures via Wikimedia Commons.

We current attendees of Columbia U are cool with the fact that Free-TV funding requires the requisite commercial load.  What isn’t cool is the random insertion of said pauses – frequently in the midst of a pivotal performance – while the less traumatic between-scene insertions have been the standard since 1948.  In an otherwise successful enterprise, the getTV professors of profit placement are currently in a state of flunk.

Comparatively Irk-Free

The aforementioned quirk-or-two aside, Sony has assembled a consistent, quality showcase for its acquired legacy catalog – and if you can’t stay awake long enough to catch a particular ending, the film in question is sure to run again and again before the month is through.

Check their website for local market availability.

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Pursuit – Karen Robards – decent premise, but flawed book

Pursuit by Karen Robards




Pros: reasonable premise that held promise

Cons: ridiculous romance angle

Starts out OK but quickly slides downhill.

I’m talking about Pursuit by Karen Robards.  This is the debut novel of the Jess Ford series.  It’s where we meet Jess and secret-service agent Mark.

When rookie lawyer Jess is given an assignment that includes meeting the First Lady, she’s thrilled.  This might just be the career-boost she’s been waiting for!  But things go terribly wrong that night.

Jess doesn’t remember too many details, but she remembers being in a car with the First Lady.  Now the car lays crumpled in a heap, and Jess is the only survivor.  While the American public is saddened by this terrible tragedy, Jess has a nagging suspicion that the crash was no accident.  Worse, anyone who might have a clue what happened that night is suddenly turning up dead.  Jess knows the only thing keeping her alive right now is her faulty memory. But if it should start coming back…

Well that’s where secret-service agent Mark comes in.  He’s trying to protect Jess from forces – known and unknown – who want to make sure the truth about that fateful night never comes out. But is Mark all he says he is?

The premise, itself, was fine.  I was definitely interested to find out what really happened that night. What was the First Lady doing just before the crash… And who benefits from her death?

But here’s the part of the story that annoys me.  Everyone who gets anywhere near Jess is turning up dead.  Clearly something huge is going on and Jess needs to be on alert.  So what does she do?  Jump into bed with the secret-service agent, of course.  Worse, declare 10 minutes later that she’s in love with him.  Yes, that’s right, the man she just met an hour ago is now her lover and “the love of her life”.

I get so tired of authors who think that every thriller requires a romance angle no matter how far-fetched its inclusion.  In this case, it was blatantly ridiculous for Jess to act as she did.  She wasn’t thinking straight, and it could have gotten her killed, not to mention causing harm and danger for others.

Once that happened, the book became tedious for me.  Jess fretting over how she looks, what she says, what he says, etc.  It was like reading a story from the point of view of a love-sick teenager.  And, I don’t mean to offend love-sick teenagers, but if I want to read a young adult novel, I’ll do so.  For me, I want my thrillers to thrill, and that’s it.

In the end, once we have all the pieces of the puzzle, the story was just OK for me.  It seemed to me that a lot of hassle ensued just because someone – somewhere – made some awfully dumb decisions.  The whole thing could have been avoided if common sense were just a bit more common.

So, no, I don’t recommend Pursuit.