|JUNE Part 4|
|I hate this printer and I want it to die. It has this obsessive start-up routine that lasts about half a day, as it cleans its nozzles, aligns the print heads, moves the carts around:
Ticktick, ticktick, ticktick
Weh-weh- whehhhh, weh-weh-wehhhhh.
Ticktick, ticktick, ticktick
Weh-weh- whehhhh, weh-weh-wehhhhh.
Ticktick, ticktick, ticktick
Weh-weh- whehhhh, weh-weh-wehhhhh.
And so forth. Its like the soundtrack for a Warhol movie that consists of eight hours of film of a cat licking its hindquarters. Or, as they say in the print biz, cleaning its nozzles.
Its odd how you remember these sounds, though - I printed off many copies of two books on an old hardy Apple printer, and to this day I remember the particular whine it made when loading a sheet. (For some reason, nearly every printer-related action sounds like some sort of excretory function. Man, do I have to clean the nozzles! Holy cow do I have to load a sheet.) But these strange sounds arent limited to printers - for a long, long time I would, when busy or distracted, make this strange little sound to myself, a sort of clucking-click, repeated three times. When I caught myself doing it, Id wonder: where the hell have I heard that sound before, and why did I remember it?
And then one day I remembered: it was the sound of the security gate at Tower Records in Washington, in the building where I worked. When you entered the store you pushed aside this brushed-metal bar, and it made a soft click-cluck sound.
Once I realized what the sound was, of course, I stopped making it.
The new camera arrived today. Could I fire it up, start snapping shots? Of course not. First I had to charge the batteries, since it doesnt take any old normal batteries. And the charging takes 12-14 hours. Sigh. But it looks cool; I walked around with it ducked in one of the many pockets of my many-pocketed shorts, and its feather light.
It can store 248 shots on the little memory card. Thats just incredible. Of course, thats the lowest resolution; if I want the best possible shot, itll hold nine pictures. But it will also hold 90 seconds of video. Amazing. I regard this as the Zapruder function: in case something really, really bad happens while youre snapping an innocuous picture, you can shoot a movie, too.
The list of warnings with this thing is incredible . . . but thats Sundays newspaper column. The manual is depressingly thick, and the setup instructions came in pamphlet at PDF format. As usual: ten pages for Windows, one page for Mac. The CD also had an amusing warning: do not put this in a sound system, or damage to your hearing may result.
Makes you want to give it a try. Cant be worse than the works of Otwar Pendergrast.
Anyway - Ill be using this camera tomorrow when I tour the new US Bancorp building. They called me up and invited me to the Private Opening, based on - get this - the Minneapolis web site. We see you have an interest in our buildings, said the voice on the answering machine. And Id also expressed, on the site, my early review of the new building: yawn. But after chatting with the delightful woman whos setting up the tour, and yukking it up about this and that, Im now inclined to like the building a little more.
From independent thinker to Harry Knowles - and it only took me a day!
Oh, great: the neighbors oldest daughter has discovered rap. Busta Rhymes is playing - I think thats him, at least. The lyrics seem to encourage someone to, ah, hoover the gephardt, if you know what I mean. That seems to be the main point of this stanza, anyway. God, I hate this stuff. I just detest it. Walking downtown today I passed an SUV, and it sounded as if someone was detonating timpani inside the passenger compartment. It was painful to the pedestrian; one can only imagine what the people inside the vehicle thought - but when I looked in the window I could tell they thought nothing. Four stoned individuals staring straight ahead. And now I have this crap coming from next door. Well, lets fight back.
Windows up -
Screen open -
Stereo on - deploying . . . . CAB CALLOWAY, singing The Man From Harlem. Its essentially a song about waiting for your weed dealer, but lo and behold, younguns, listen carefully to those strange sounds in the background. Theyre called musical instruments, and they are playing something the old folks call a tune. Whats Cab doing, you ask? Well, surely you recognize that hes declaiming lyrics in a brisk quick style - bustin mad dope rimes, cuz, you might say. But hes also singing. Whats singing? Well . . . its when you modulate your tone and pitch to produce a melody. Whats that you ask? No, Slim Shady does not kill anyone in this song. Sorry.
So very, very sorry.
Went to US Bancorps open house tonight. I had decided ahead of time to be completely co-opted. They want to let me see behind the scenes? Then Ill post a good review of their building. Simple as that.
Truth be told, Id come to like the building in the last month. Yeah, right. Sellout! No, really. Ill go into the reasons when I post the site for the building next week, but its grown on me - particularly the plaza, which accomplishes something damn near miraculous. It might be one of the first plazas that people actually use for something other than cigarette breaks. Every big city has at least one empty wind-swept plaza with the obligatory fountain, or planter, or rusty hunk of Serra-dreck. Blame the Seagram building. Blame all those Mieses Pieces in Chicago. Straight tower, no set backs, planted in the middle of an empty plaza: how very modern. But this plaza works; people just want to be there. It actually lends a sense of urban density by opening up the corner.
So I like it. I headed off to the open house, figuring Id just tag along with a tour group, see what I could see. On the way I realized I was hungry, and stopped, inexplicably, at Arbys. And I was glad I did: great fries, savory chicken sandwich with three-pepper sauce. What that is, I dont know. Pepper is pepper. If you have three peppers, the stronger of the three will rule; any three-pepper sauce is a one-pepper sauce.
But I like pepper.
Finished the meal, went to the building . . . and discovered a big party in the atrium, with liveried servants serving drinks and fine seafood.
The crowd was mostly financial sorts, the good-shoe and necktie boys fresh from work. I knew no one, and knew Id know no one, so I went outside to take some pictures. The publicity whod invited me spotted me, however, and brought out two fellows to be my guides for the tour. One of them was a fellow named Collin, the VP of the company that built the structure. The other was Scott, who designed it.
Not just this one, but the building next door, now rising, which replaces the old Physicians and Surgeons building, and the fabulous Target phase 2, rising the next block over.
Thrilled? I was a stammering idiot, probably.
And now its email time. The Fargo Forum did a story on my Fargo website, and it generated ten tons of mail - including a hallo from a fellow who has thousands and thousands of Fargo postcards. We spoke on the phone this afternoon, and within three minutes reached the same conclusion: we have to do a book. And so we shall.
Wonderful day. Could the evening get any better? Yes: after I do the mail, Ill finish the directors cut (with 60 extra frickin minutes) of the letterboxed German language version of Das Boot. Life is good.
Except for the Busta. Hah: Ive a new weapon. I see it coming up in the MP3 Master Playlist, right after this Garbage track:
And so begins a two-week period of short Bleats. Not because I tire of Bleating; not because Ive nothing to say or have suddenly been overcome with a wave of ennui for all things web related. No. But I am finishing The Book, and Bleat time could be writing time. This weekend I finished a huge chunk of the Gallery book. Went through $50 worth of ink. I thought Id be fine, but no - ran out today in mid-chapter. Headed off to the computer store. I found one cartridge of ink for my machine. I considered asking a clerk to get me another, then stopped, thought: lets just buy a new machine. It might be cheaper.
Think of it: the cartridges are $25 a pop. I know Im going to buy the Epson 870 printer to go with the digital camera; the printer is $300, and comes with a cartridge. If I get one more cartridge, Ill have enough to finish the book. It actually makes fiscal sense to buy the new printer.
People who are capable of these calculations are often married to people who do not automatically see the logic. My wife, for example, was not exactly clicking her heels when she learned what I paid for the new camera. Especially since it broke over the weekend. Yes: it broke. The lens went out and stayed out. Wont retract. ZOOM ERROR! messages. This is horrible - I had intended to head to Fargo Monday, and I cant go back without the camera. The company from which I purchased the item staffs the weekend desk with people who have no power to make any decisions other than forwarding me to the voice mail of strangers. Thats another reason this is a short mail: I have to write a blistering, yet civil, email tonight to the company so I can GET A NEW FARGIN CAMERA ~
Anyway. I explained to my wife that the camera would pay for itself, since we never had to buy film or pay for developing. (Just for ink and paper, both of which are priced by dead-hearted gonifs, but what can you do.) Im proud to report that she didnt buy it. Id be disappointed if she did. Nothing is worse than having a clear, dead-eyed appraisal of ones ability to shade and prevaricate, and find that it works on your loved ones. Everyone has my number. Whew.
So Im printing, and printing, and printing. Ah WEEE ah WEEE ah WEE ah WEWEWEWEWEWE (thats when it hits a narrow column of text.) Im reading Access, which is Parade plus Wired, a mainstream Internet tabloid that appears in newspapers all over the country. Im looking through the links section, and honest to God: I think, well, Ill bet Im in here.
And I was. It was a review of the Gallery. Four mouse clicks.
Its rare - no, nonexistent - to actually have ones book reviewed while youre finishing the final draft. Gives me strength and courage.
While I printed I checked the mail. Oy. Many, many requests for adoptions; Ive gotten millions of these. Finally someone noted that theyd seen the site in an AARP magazine. Hah! That explains it. The recent mailing has been the most interesting flood in a long time - dozens of letters with long subject lines and no text in the message, MANY MANY ALL CAPS MESSAGES, a few churlish why-you-whippersnapper rants, but mostly kind, literate, merry letters. Interesting. I was replying to the letter when -
I was disconnected. The phone rang. It was a woman from Fargo whod seen the article on the Fargo website and wanted to tell me about the man who painted the picture of the giant cowboy on the wall downtown, way back in the late 40s. I have his brother sitting right here, she said. And so she told the story. The cowboy was painted by Chuck Sellberg; he was 18 at the time. He went on to a career as a famous fencing instructor at Berkeley, and now he lives on a mountain in Oregon. Just thought youd like to know. Okay. Goodbye.
No one wrote, or called, or wrote a piece on, the motel postcard site, so thats what Im updating today. Nyah.
These are the four phrases that characterized the source of todays agita. Todays tsuris. Todays aggravation. I called PCWonders, the branch of BuyItNow.com from whom I purchased the defective camera.
Ewuhnuh said the mush-mouthed receptionist.
Is - is this PC Wonders? I asked.
That one I understood: Please Hold.
While I was on hold I learned that PC Wonders is a part of EWonders. Ah: thats what the receptionist had said when she answered the phone. Ewuhnuh.
Life in the marketplace today: the job markets so tight that youre forced to hire, as telephone operators, people who are incapable of enunciation, or disinclined to try.
After a period on hold the phone was answered by another mushmouther: cusmuh assissan, she said, and this might have made sense if the previous person had said Im transferring you to customer assistance, but since I hadnt asked for that it took a second or two of processing time to get it. I explained my situation: your company sold me a defective camera, and I need to get it exchanged as soon as possible.
Sir dyou have innanet agcess.
No, I placed my online order with your online company by using an Etch-A-Sketch with a kite attached to it. Yes, I said.
You needa goto repairs page an filada ROA reques.
And - whats an ROA?
Return Order Authorization. This was said crisply, with bureaucratic disdain for the IDIOT who thought it was important for the little people to know these things.
You geddan ROA number bagwidin 48 ars.
No, no, I said. I cant wait 48 hours to get the number. I need the camera in 48 hours.
And of course this ran smack up against the limit of her authority, so she sent me to the voice mail of someone who A) had more power, and B) never answered her phone. I called six times and left two messages, once when I was home, once when I was at the office. I explained my predicament in a civil fashion. Nothing. Not a call all day.
In the meantime I amused myself by calling Fuji to see if there was anything they could tell me. After waiting on hold for forty minutes, the phone was abruptly answered, and the operator seemed perturbed that I didnt leap INSTANTLY into the question, but took a few seconds to reboot after FORTY FARGIN MINUTES of listening to classic 80s MOR. Please! Put me back on hold! More Eye of the Tiger, please!
I explained my situation. Lens will not retract. She suggested that I remove the batteries and the recording medium for 3 1/2 hours, and see if that worked. If not, it was broken.
I have no doubt that her entire day consists of saying the exact same thing to everyone who calls.
This is retail hell. This is why Internet shopping stinks. Its good for a book or a CD or a DVD, but the minute it gets more complex its just not worth it. Im actually tempted to return the camera for good, and buy it at Circuit City for $140 more - AND pay for the service contract rip -off package just so I know theres a building I can go to, a door thats open until nine, and a manager in a red shirt I can corner.
Tomorrow: we call Media Relations of this company, and see if THAT works.
(Sidenote: Lousy story today in the WSJ about boo.com - a few eye-rolling anecdotes, but too short to detail the stupendous idiocy that must have suffused that operation from top to bottom. And it made no mention whatsoever of the main reason boo failed: the moronic A new window is being opened by your browser message that greeted you when you entered the site. That was like entering the front door of a store and instantly being shoved through another smaller door off to the right for no apparent reason. [And for longtime gamers, it was like a message from Quake or Hexen: a door has opened elsewhere.] The rest of WSJ contained all sorts of bad news for etailers - 80% of available ad capacity is going unused, for example; click-thru on ad banners has dropped below one percent.)
So - should I buy from this company when I know theyre selling the camera for $50 below their wholesale cost? Hmm? Yes, yes, I know: they lose money on every item but make it up on volume.
You can stop anytime, my wife suggested. She was looking at the stack of the manuscript for the Gallery book. Its thick. Its very thick. It keeps getting thicker. Tonight I spent The Scanning Hour (6:30 - 7:30 PM) on a batch of miscellaneous items, building up the great backlog from which I will construct the next year of the site, and I found a few unscanned books Id set aside as possible Gallery chapters. Well, its now 11:02, and the books have been scanned, resized, recut, laid out; the copys written and I printed them out. Twelve more pages.