MAY Part 4
So if I’m digitizing all this music, why aren’t I listening to it? I’m sitting here in silence - well, not total silence; the drier is humming its meditative OMMM while the buttons click on the metal walls, castanets in a Buddhist ceremony. But that’s it. No city sounds, no planes, no dog barks. If I turned off the drier -

Whoa. The drier just turned itself off.

Now it’s completely silent. . . and now I hear what I didn’t hear before. Faint traffic down the block. Faint sounds of the TV downstairs - I must not have turned it all the way down. Faint grumble of the fridge starting up.

For a dog or any other creature with good hearing, this must be a calamitous world. A noisy, brash, incessant assault. Microwave popcorn sounds like machine-gun fire, all conversation is shouting, and shouting is like having a megaphone put up to your ear.

Not that there’s a lot of conversation at Lileks Manor; my wife is still away, and it’s just me and the mutt. Every so often I’ll say something, just to break up the silence, and the words seem to hang in the air like cartoon speech. Jasper is bored with me and with everything in general - usually his evening begins when Sara comes home, but when she doesn’t come home he knows not when to start the evening routine. (Tomorrow he will give her up for dead and make a new routine. Dogs adapt.) Tonight all the radio weathermen warned of rain, so I took him out right after supper. And it began to rain - big lukewarm drops that slapped on the leaves in the trees overhead. I cut the walk short, went home, whereupon it stopped raining. Hasn’t rained since.

I can tell my wife’s been gone for a while because the clothes in the drier were part of a load I started yesterday afternoon. On the other hand, I digitized the entire Pennies from Heaven soundtrack today, and scanned Argentinean currency!

One needs a spouse to keep accomplishments like these from assuming unseemly proportions.

Last night - watched the season finale of the X-Files, expecting little and getting much. It had a peculiar flavor, though, and it reminded me of Twin Peaks, which is probably my favorite TV show in the Whole Wide World Ever Amen - if you leave out the lesser Horne brother, the post-Bob stuff, the Josie subplot, the mill fire, that horrible song James sang . . . well, maybe it wasn’t as good as I remember, but the best of it was as good as TV gets, and damn spooky. The wind in the trees - the swinging stoplight - the music - Bob - and above all, Agent Cooper. Forthright, honest, coffee-loving, and a damn fine shot, too.

Agent Cooper needs to show up on the X-Files.

But that’s another subject. Column night - back to work.

___

Went to bed laaaate last night, and fell asleep with blissful ease. Woke this morning with a start, and couldn’t get back to sleep. There was a bird outside the window, peeping with annoying insistence. Twenty minutes later I was still thrashing in place. Finally dared to look at the clock.

I’d been asleep for three and a half hours.

And I was completely, utterly awake.

It was 5:38 AM.

Chalk it up to . . . what? That drink before bedtime? That cup of coffee after supper? Neither has resulted in this condition for the last 6,000 episodes of Me vs. Consciousness, why should this be different? Perhaps because my wife’s still on her business trip, and the house just feels weird and vacant without her. Perhaps because of that damn bird. Perhaps perhaps. I thought: let’s go back to sleep. We have to sleep. Two columns due today. Must sleep or I’m DEAD.

Thoughts like this are fatal to sleep. Lethal.

I was still awake at 6:30. Ah, to hell with it. Got up, had breakfast. Fed Jasper, who was more than pleased to get food according to my wife’s schedule. But now what? I didn’t trust myself to go to work - I’d just fall asleep. So I finished one column. Then I scanned. And scanned. Listened to the morning show on KSTP for a change. Scanned some more! Then walked Jasper in the creek. I was alarmingly awake by now. No coffee; just the general inexplicable weirdness of the morning. Back home, I ironed a shirt, cleaned up some scans, then -

Whoa -

Bed. ZZZzzzz.

Up three hours later. Now Jasper is looking at me as though this morning never happened. It’s food and a walk, right? No. I fixed lunch and wandered to the office. Aggregate sleep: six hours. It seemed enough. Wrote a column, went home, nuked Indian food, wandered upstairs to the bed . . . whoa. Bed. Zzzzz. Up 35 minutes later. Now Jasper is looking at me as though the normal evening routine will follow: it’s food and a walk, right? Yes! Off to the video store, where once again I examined all the boxes for the movies I’d like to rent if they weren’t checked out. For the last week I’ve been looking at the box for the latest Scorcese movie. I don’t think the store bought any copies. They just bought the box.

Five copies of “End of Days,” though. Sorry. No. I like a good Arnie movie, but devil movies bore me. Unless Pacino plays the devil. He has the right approach.

Here’s the kind of neighborhood I live in: 15 copies of “Cradle Will Rock,” and they’re all rented. At least 15 of my neighbors really wanted to see Tim Robbins’ apology for Stalinist sympathizers. Rockin’ good time! Let’s all feel a warm surge of self-congradulatory righteousness when Diego Rivera is treated poorly by his capitalist masters!


To tell the truth, I feel equally ill-disposed towards “American Beauty,” which I haven’t, and won’t, see. When I read reviews that described how the movie peeled back the shiny veneer of the modern suburb and showed the rot and angst beneath, I thought: this is new? This is brave? This is insight? For God’s sake, the Shallowness of the Suburbs has been a hardy crutch for every boho scribe since Kerouac. Every tender soul who endured the tyranny of the cul-de-sac style council ran off to the big city and wept hot tears into the typewriter.

The anti-burbians love to describe the pathetic, empty life of Burbus Americanus and castigate that vapid land where all men devolve into inert bags of skin & beer, merging with the Barcolounger when they SHOULD be down at the poetry slam screaming couplets about their desire to have sex with Ralph Nader (“Red Corvair! Pubic Hair! A Public Affair! Our Love is Unsafe at Any Speed!”) But they’d be lost without the lumpen proles. The intelligentsia needs stupid people. They need them to prove whatever point that needs proving; they need them to exist as a class of sheep that will be Correctly Directed when the right people take power; they need them to show how clever the intelligentsia are.

Nothing terrifies the authors of movies such as “American Beauty” like the notion of a nation where smart, clever, self-confident individuals choose the suburbs of their own volition. Nothing cossets these hacks like the conviction that happy people aren’t happy. They can’t be.

It would be SO unfair if they were.

___

&Mac255;he following is not intended as a coherant Bleat. It's the last night of digitizing the LPs, the penultimate night of wifelessness. This is just babble blurted out while waiting for the scanner to finish, the ripper to conclude its work. My brain feels like a melon that's been scooped out by hungry monkeys. All my mail is about "American Beauty." I really need to just shut off all the machines, nuke the leftover pizza and watch "Blind Date" until my brains run out my nose.

You know, The older one gets - and by “old” I mean “not in the Britney Spears demographic” - the more the distant past gets closer. I can’t explain it, exactly. But when I was 12 in 1970, 1920 seemed like a million years away. Not anymore. Eventually you realize how little the essentials change. The urban landscape around here hasn't changed - Edit out the new cars and the occasional plane, and it's 1924 again. Who needs a time machine when you have your imagination? I do, because every time I see graffiti, I want to find the little shits who’ve been tagging the stop signs and bridges and trees, take them back to 1920, and leave them there.

Little fargin’ bastiches. They hit a bunch a trees by the creek. Big towering trees now covered with squiggly gibberish. Trees! To quote El Colburno in “Payback” - Man, that’s just cold.

Scanning and digitizing. Last night of Bleating while listening to the soundtrack of my college days, so forgive me. After this, I'm done. Tonight's lesson: the Smithereens weren't as crucial as I thought they were. File that insight next to "Mighty Lemon Drops, Disheartening Monochromatic Nature of" )

Half a dozen albums to go from the tottering stack of LPs. I'm down to the stuff I dreaded listening to - it’s these miserable unhappy art-rock suites that were meant to showcase the musician’s ability to attenuate a simple idea over eight minutes without elaboration or variation. A favorite trick in the genre: the slow fade up and the slow fade down. Right now I’m listening to a record I haven’t heard since I played it to death in 1977 - “The Geese and the Ghost” by Anthony Phillips. The name along tells you it’s a member in good standing of the Tremulous Milky-Skinned Thin-Bearded Brit-Picker school of art music. To make matters worse, it’s saturated with medieval imagery and lyrics; the cover has - shudder - a troubadour with a lute, staring at a pool in which some sort of diaphanous angel-babe is emerging. In the background, the setting sun illuminates jousting knights, misty hills, ruined battlements, etc. It’s the sort of rock album which features credits for “oboes” and “Cor Anglais.” Oh so tasteful.

Oh so . . . lovely. I bought subsequent efforts from this fellow, and was never as impressed as I was with this album. Listening to it now, I’m transfixed. It’s simple but intricate, grand without being pretentious, smart without being arid, kind without being sappy. It -

Whoa, to quote the bard; just had an experience that has happened over and over again this week. A guitar solo I’d not heard for two decades pops up, and within two notes I’m singing along. The memory of the notes has been buried for years, but broke the surface in half a second. Amazing. The solo was probably Mike Rutherford, known to the rest of the world for his hackwork on Mike & the Mechanics. (But not known for “Smallcreep’s Day,” a collection of prog-rock he did for no discernible reason in the early 80s.)

Finished the Harry James and Glen Miller. Passed on most of “Sweets from a Stranger” by Squeeze, since it’s the album where they had obviously tired of being the Next Beatles, and just turned out Product. You can tell that everyone’s recording their tracks separately. The only real rave-up single, “I Can’t Hold On,” is so inert and forced that -

Well, I remember exactly where I was when this one came out. I was living in a gigantic concrete project called Cedar Square West, one of those New-Town-In-Town projects that the Enlightened Planners had decided would revitalize the city. They’d knocked down blocks of the West Bank and built these towers, spattered the facades with Mondrian-esque patterns, linked them all with walkways, provided the obligatory barren plazas where we were supposed to gather and discuss Costa-Gravas movies. Some of the towers were civil places to live; others were full of noise, crime, roaches, drunks, untended children roaming the halls at one AM. It was an interesting experiment in economic integration, and had the usual result: a minority of subsidized tenants drove out 100% of everyone who could afford to leave, and made life miserable for 100% for those who could not afford to leave.

My girlfriend at the time lived in one of the towers that had no Section 8. (It was the building where Mary Tyler Moore lived in the latter seasons.) Sedate and roach-free. Based on her experience, and the thrill of living in a megalopolis, I moved in to another tower. Faced east; had an 18th story view. It was a studio - one room, including the kitchen, hallway / closet, bathroom. Still remember the first day I moved in, looked out the window at the view, at the giant slab of the McKnight Tower rising to the right, and thought:

I have made a horrible, horrible mistake.

Spent a year there. During this year the “Sweets from a Stranger” album came out, and I recall quite clearly sitting at that crappy table in that crappy room, looking at my shelves - made entirely of orange-red milk crates - and thinking, this isn’t very good. At the time, nothing seemed very good. Music was disappointing me. College was disappointing me. I had gone to a doctor complaining of swollen glands, and he had informed me that I possibly had Hodgkin’s Disease. And a nutcase I’d 86d from a restaurant was stalking me.

Life really, really sucked. That was1982. So Squeeze’s inability to be happy about fame and fortune wasn’t all that impressive at the time.

And now I’m really depressed.

One more day of wifelessness. Is there anything around here that can cheer me up now? Well, yes. While writing this - (and scanning, and answering mail, and playing with Jasper, and pouring a nice frosty Absolut, and chewing on a wad of nicotine gum, and resizing the German money) I’ve digitized all but three albums. Left them for last, as a reward.

All three original Tom Lehrer LPs.

___

All better now. The turntable has been packed up and put away, and I feel relieved - like a dog who can rest when the suitcases are back in the basement. The long week of digitizing is over; the column work is mostly done . . . and I just realized there are two jobs I have do this weekend, two long labor-intensive jobs, and all of a sudden my chest CLENCHES -

No. Not tonight. Today’s been perfect. Blue skies, warm wind, a faultless late-May day. Went to Dog Heaven with Jasper after supper, and found two big romping dogs. Being big rowdy bruisers, they wanted nothing to do with Jasper - the battle for number one dog was between them, and they could tell with a glance and a sniff that Jasp was not a contender. So they did not include him in the games. I always hate to see that; it’s like watching your kid be the last one chosen for kickball. He ran along and barked and did his best, but he was up against Super Lab - a dog that could hold a tennis ball AND a big stick in his mouth at the same time. Even the boxer tucked tail at this sight. This one - he has powers way beyond those of mortal dog.

We walked to the baseball diamond, where Jasper always finds two or three molecules of Cracker Jack. Through the school parking lot, back over the bridge - into the woods again. One of the pleasures of this neighborhood is the nonlinear nature of one’s evening walks - you can trace lazy eights all over the place, threading through neighborhoods, woods, commercial nodes, woods, neighborhoods, the lake, woods, creek, commercial nodes, and then you’re home again. The trick is fooling the dog. He has unerring sense of the terrain, and once you start to Go Home, he knows it. And he stops. Sits. Looks away. Pretends that this is Not Happening. It’s just amazing. We can be fifteen blocks away heading north, and if I make two left turns to go home he stops: no. Not yet.

Got him home with the promise of a Frosty Paws frozen dog treat. Sat outside in the sunset eating a Malt Cup while he ate the Frosty Paws: lap lap lap lap laplaplap crrrACKLe .When there's none left, he chews the cup in despair and resignation. Then he sighed that great burden-of-the-world dog sigh, flopped on the ground and rolled on his back. Sometimes this means thank you, in the You-Are-Truly-God-Thank-You-For-These-Gifts sense. I’d say it’s just like someone worshiping at church, but at church the parishioners don’t show evil liverish red-tipped penises in the middle of the service. At least no church I’ve been to. And for that I truly thank God.

"Put that weenis back where you found it, pup," I said. He got up on all fours, dropped to a seated position, examined his crotch for a second, then sneezed on my shin. He then looked at me with that suspicious sideways dog-look that says: I might get some fun out of you if I try. It's a tossup but it's worth a shot.

It's almost unbearable how much I love him.

WAR! I’ve been having a small war with a website that stole a significant portion of my Fargo site. It’s amusing, really; the guy hoovers up the Broadway postcards and pictures. Doesn’t even rename them. Posts them on his site. That’s . . . not nice. But then he states that his is the only historical Fargo web site. He writes letters to the local media, telling them about this site he’s set up. I was alerted to this by a fellow Fargoan

ah, CRIMINEY. CRIKEY. Forgot to make a change in the column, and it’s too late for the outstate edition. Hold on -

There. Made the change. Dang. Well, I’ll look like a moron in the Fargo edition tomorrow.

Where was I? Right: this idiot in Fargo peeved me mightily, for he had swiped my work, my photos, my scans, and passed them off as his work. He is of the Rainbow Gathering persuasion (the meta tags on his home page alone are ever so hempalicious) and perhaps has a rather . . . flexible notion of property. His website include a rant against the local historical society, which had the gall to request money for scanning items in their collection. Imagine! Why, it’s everybody’s history, man, and he was born here, man, and who are they to hoard history, man?

If he’d swiped a few postcards from my site I wouldn’t have given a fig, but like I said, he took the entire Broadway portion and pretended it was his creation. I tried to get him on the phone; we didn’t connect. So I e-mailed him. Wrote a long stern letter. It had the desired effect. But oh, the lad’s peeved, and writes a little screed that says I'm "hoarding" Fargo's history, and I " suck." (Note - since this Bleat went up, that little rant's been removed, too. But the rest of the site is still there in all its circa-1995 design glory.)

I love it: by putting my entire collection of Fargo postcards on the web, at my expense, for the world to see, I am hoarding history. “Hoarding” defined here as “not letting silly little hemp-sprites claim the work as their own.”

Ah, yes. Well, now I must go downstairs and clean. Mop the floors, sweep, dust, water the plants and coax the weary ones back to life; wrangle the dog-hair tufts into a dustpan, sort the mail, scrub the sink and make the house look spiffy for Sara’s return tomorrow. I want her to walk in the door and think: nothing needs to be done.

No greater gift a man can give. Unmarried men: trust me on that one.

___

We were supposed to have supper Sunday night with some interesting folk - a trumpet player (*the* trumpet player, if you ask me) for the Minnesota Orchestra, and a local writer & actor who used to be part of the Guthrie theater. I had forgotten to note the time of the supper. Thought of this as I wandered off to sleep . . . naturally, I had an anxiety dream about the Guthrie and the Minnesota Orchestra. I was performing in a Guthrie play that took place in Orchestra Hall. It was a play about the Russian Revolution. I played Kropotnik. I had no idea what my part was about, or what my lines were - standard stuff. But I didn’t care. They handed me a script and said it would be fine if I read the script on the stage. I was wearing a thick wool suit. I nodded, knotted my tie and headed on stage.

In most of these dreams, this is a bad moment. In this one, I couldn’t have cared less. I tried to follow along in the script, but couldn’t find any connection between the script and the action. Couldn’t find my cues. Couldn’t find anything for Kropotnik. Eventually I noticed that the rest of the cast had fallen silent, and was staring at me. So I began. And I was magnificent. (Hah! The computer’s jukebox just kicked out “October Symphony,” the PSB tribute to old Soviet composers.) I mean, I strode the boards and orated about the glories of the proletariat and the virtues of terror. And then I nodded towards the judge - there was a judge on a high bench, staring at me - and said:

Take them outside, throw them on the sidewalk and shoot them. But give them a coat. It’s cold outside.

And then I strode offstage.

And then I woke up, and thought: damn! That’s cold. That’s good.

And then I went back to sleep, and milled around backstage, expecting pats and applause. Finally someone said “well, yeah, that was interesting, but it had nothing to do with the play, or your character.”

Fourteen hours later I tell the story to the Guthrie actor, who promptly replays the line back with a perfect Russian accent and pronounces it worthy of Gogol.

Can I claim credit for the line? Of course not. Will I use it somewhere else? Of course I will.

Right now it’s late, late, late on a cold night on a cold weekend. Benny Goodman now. I should be hungry in awhile; dinner wasn’t that filling, but it was a fine night. Dinner was a treat - one of those nights you wish would go on for six more hours. Sara and myself, Manny from the Orchestra (he was a caller on my late-night radio show, which is how we met - he invited me to emcee the Youth Orchestra concerts he runs on the side with his wife. I love ‘em both - transplanted New Yorkers, sharp funny people with 40 million stories about the classical musical world) Tom and Julie (Tom’s the actor; also a teacher and author - wrote “A Cup of Christmas Tea” and a few other books; Julie is an educator & musician, and has a wonderful sarcastic Midwestern wit). No, that sentence doesn’t scan, but it contained all the necessary information. And now it’s over.

Anyway. Wonderful evening. Went home. Redid the restaurant postcard site. A nice counterpoint to the afternoon, which was spent redoing the Jasper and NYC sites while I scanned and e-mailed the pix to Yahoo! Internet Life for their piece on lileks.com & other retro repositories. At one point last night the enormity of v. 5.0 started to give me hives - so much to go wrong! So much to fix! So little overall discernible difference! And every time I turn around I start adding something new, which only makes it worse. But I’ve decided to have the site up and ready for the Yahoo article. That’s the reason; that’s the deadline.

Totaled up the number of pages in the site today: 2,048. How did this happen? One day I thought, hmm, it would be fun to have a postcard site . . . and now it has 140 postcards. (Or will, when I post all the updates.) When I finished the Jasper site I realized I’d put up a 32-page site about my dog. The Curious Lucre site already has 80 pages. Why? Why am I doing this?

If I had a webcam right now, I’d hold up the contract from Random House for the Gallery of Regrettable Food book. Hah! HAH!

But that’s not why. One of the interesting things I did this weekend - “interesting” being defined for our purposes as “a small private geeky diversion that isn’t really interesting at all” - was to pick out some old pages for a little private web history site. It was instructive to see how this site has grown & changed, and how the basic delusion remains intact: no one’s watching, except for me. And you.

To quote the Pin: Are we having fun yet? I am. Hope you are too.

Thirty pages of Jasper dog coming in version 5.0! Eighty motels! Sixty-two Minneapolis subsites! New Washington Post pieces! Backfence archive! Two new additions to the Institute - Welcome to Hell, and the Permanent Collection of Impermanent Art! MP3s! More Art Frahm! Additional Gobbler stories! More New York architectural details! ONE HUNDRED PAGES OF FOREIGN MONEY!

Believe it or not: this is the least of the new additions.

Enough - it’s a column night. Back to work. Musical note: I bought Moby’s “Play” this afternoon, and yes, it’s a year old, but if you had wondered if it was as good as they said, the answer is no; nothing could be THAT good. But so far much of it is very good, and the last track - known to X-Philes as the “Mulder-finds-Samantha-in-the-blue-forest” music - can crack the hardest heart. It’s the sound of the first morning of spring, the last sunset of fall.

And a testament to the power of art. Go figure: I saw that X-files episode, and expected little; it was the second of a two-parter, after all. And it was the whole Samantha arc, which was tired. And the plot wandered and annoyed, piling on new mystical hugger-mugger . . . but when it came to the end, it hit me like an anvil in the sternum. TV shows trade in these themes all the time - lost siblings, untimely death, unslakable grief. For all I know Xena’s handled the same stuff, and I’d watch it with a stony face. But I’ve been following this show for a long time, and I forget how much I really love it.

A few weeks ago I was out on the Sunday errands with the Giant Swede; he popped in the Moby disk as we drove around. As he pulled up in front of Lileks Manor the Moby tune came on, and I recognized it instantly. I got out of the car - stood on the lawn with bags of groceries, looking up and down the block at all the children playing in the light of a Sunday spring, and heard that song, and the tears just streamed out.

Made it to the front door. Jasper barked hello and peered at me and licked the salt off my face, and I thought: what was that all about? Eh? It’s not because I’m happy for Mulder. Or sad for same. It’s not for any TV show . . . but it’s forsomething that was in those images, those emotions behind the writer’s script. Something buried so damn deep I don’t dare go there. The music is the side door, the stage-door entrance, the way into the emotion that lets you watch from the wings. And as anyone who’s spent time backstage knows, things seem different from the backstage perspective. The pretense is gone; the artifice is unveiled. And it sometimes seems all the more real.

Take them outside; let them draw on the sidewalk with chalk; shoot pictures, because they grow up so fast. But wrap them in the cloak of your love. It can be cold beyond this block. So very, very cold.

___

Cold day. Again. The weekend was cold and dark; Monday was cold, dark, with a loud operatic storm in the early morning. Today: cold. Dark. Feels like March, not June.

That’s four cold Mays in a row. Abnormal? No. There were 80s a few weeks ago. I checked the old records in the microfilmed papers, and found the exact same weather, over and over again. A week of 80s, a week of 50s. May is bipolar.


Watched “Bringing Out the Dead,” the latest Scorcese movie. I’m a great admirer of Marty. And I can call him Marty, just like my friends in the classical music business can call Bernstein “Lenny,” because they worked with him, or knew someone who did. And an old friend of mine is a good friend of one of Scorcese’s daughters. So there. He’s Marty to me. He’s a brilliant fellow, and he’s America’s finest director. But this movie wasn’t very good at all. It felt forced and unauthentic on every level - the sort of “real” and “gritty” movie made by someone who hasn’t left the house in fifteen years, but only observed life through the window of a hired Lincoln Town Car. It had the usual kinetic camerawork, although they seemed forced and rote. The haunted nature of its protagonist never seemed real, never connected; he was crazy in that Lethal Weapon fashion - i.e., we’re *told* he’s crazy, so he must be. Nicholas Cage was okay, but nothing special; ditto Ving, who once again played the Intensely Black Sidekick. His character was charasmatically religious AND a sex-machine, which is okay in the movies if you’re Black. If a character is white, come-to-Jesus religious and intensely sexual, he’s a scary repressed MANIAC who will probably kill someone by the end of the movie.

John Goodman, as usual, played John Goodman better than anyone. I am constantly gratified by the man’s willingness to play fat assholes of all stripes & varieties. The Idiotical Criminal FA? Check: Raising Arizona. The Deluded Profane Loser FA? Check: Big Lebowski. The Common-Man-Decapitating-Thrill-Killer FA? Check: Barton Fink. Although his next movie looks bad, unbelievably bad, Showgirls bad - it’s called “Coyote Ugly.” Saw a preview. WARNING! Avoid. Same with “Hollow Man,” which looks like another load of bile and contempt from Verhooven.

Anyway. BOTD had Marty as the voice of the ambulance dispatcher, and it was jarring; it was like seeing Hitchcock in every fifth scene. The movie supposedly showed the early pre-Rudy New York, back in the deepest days of Dinkins, but even so it seemed like a 70s retread. Which it was! That was the last time Marty could probably walk the streets without being bothered.

I fast-forwarded through a few scenes. Never done that with one of his movies. It felt sacrilegious, but as with all sacrilegious acts, you adapt. Quickly.

Saturday: saw Gladiator. Now here’s a director I used to love, who made a spate of movies I either loathed or yawned at. To this day I have a fond memory of “Conquest of Paradise,” but I may have been drinking. Good theme, though. I’d not read anything about Gladiator - I just had a deep certain feeling that it was going to be good. Not just good: it was going to be this sort of movie done right. It would stand apart. It would be the sort of movie that would be seen in 30 years, and enjoyed for its own merits, not as a commentary on the times from which it sprang.

I was really looking forward to it. I don’t look forward to many movies, because they usually disappoint.

From the opening shot I was entranced. Never looked at my watch. Never noticed whether anyone was kicking my seat or talking. Never heard or saw a thing but the film. Haven’t enjoyed a movie like this since - well, I don’t know. Can’t say. But for those of us with longstanding love of Roman lore, this was a delirious feast. And for anyone else who wants heart and sinew and brains in a movie, this is the real thing. It has the same impact on old movies about Rome as “Private Ryan” had on the bloodless WW2 movies.

If Mann’s “Gates of Fire” is this good, it’ll be a fine year for the antiquarians.

Also watched “The World is Not Enough.” Eh. I will believe Brosnan in the role now, though; the Bond job requires coolness and cruelty, and towards the end he does a very nasty thing, and does it without regret. Having seen “Dr. No” last week, the comparison was instructive. Connery occupied the role from the beginning; Brosnan earns it. And he’s much more suave than the early Connery, who must have struck some of his countrymen as a footballer stuffed in a tux. Brosnan’s Bond suggests a certain intelligence - which makes those STOOPID double-entendres all the more painful.

That said, the movie was just silly. Great beginning. Great second beginning after the first beginning. Note to producers: driving a boat through city streets just screams ROGER MOORE ERA. Avoid. Then there was Sophie Marceau, who’s sultry in that French way, but she doesn’t do anything for me - catty arrogant petulance is tiresome. Denise Whatzerbusum, however, was eye-rollingly banal. Warning to guys: in the underwater scenes wheneveryone’s clothing gets wet, tilt your head down while rolling your eyes so you do not miss anything.

But on the other hand . . . I enjoyed it. I love the old Bond movies. And I’m one of the few who rooted for the Dalton Bond. Give Brosnan one more shot, and he might really add something new to the persona. God knows it needs it.

At the end of the movie, the same phrase appeared: JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. I grinned, and remembered when I was eleven, and saw my first Bond film, saw those words. How do they know? Really? There’ll be MORE? Cool!

The Bleat Will Return.

.