Some people have been making cheap cracks about my “air and ether” remark earlier today about being able to read delicate radio signals and atmospheric data about where actors and filmmakers are coming from and what they’re facing and thinking and sorting through with their partners and agents. “It’s in the air, in the ether,” I wrote. “You just have to know how to feel or read it.”

I meant that when you’ve gathered enough experience and learned how to fine-tune your insect antennae and olfactory glands and you can’t write a column like this while running around with a note pad like Clark Kent, then you just have to trust what you’ve learned and absorbed and divined. It would be better, agreed, to do the Clark Kent plus the air-and-ether thing, but the latter works on its own. All you have to do is turn on the dish and just start processing and translating.

I’m not taking about the same thing that Paul Newman spoke of when he delivered his big speech in The Hustler (1961), but there are similarities. Because I honestly believe that I’ve reached a certain Eddie Felson-like proficiency in this racket or realm or whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

“If a guy knows….if he knows what he’s doing and why [then] he can make it come off,” Newman/Felson said 50 years ago. “When I’m goin’, I mean, when I’m really goin’ I feel like a…like a jockey must feel. He’s sittin’ on his horse, he’s got all that speed and that power underneath him…he’s comin’ into the stretch, the pressure’s on him, and he knows…he just feels when to let it go and how much. Cause he’s got everything workin’ for him. Timing, touch. It’s a great feeling, boy, it’s a real great feeling when you’re right and you know you’re right. You don’t have to look, you just know.”

Or as Lawrence Tierney‘s Joe Cabot said after fingering Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs, “You don’t need proof when you’ve got instinct.”