||Last night I dreamed I was sitting in the kitchen of my house in Fargo with my parents, their maid, and Bill
Clinton. It goes without saying that my parents do not have a maid. I was interviewing her about whether Bill Clinton had given her money to spy on my parents. She said, slowly, there was no quid pro quo. Clinton nodded gravely. He seemed preoccupied, but concerned.
Later I was standing in the kitchen with my mother, and Clinton came in. Took out a checkbook. He apologized for all the problems hed caused, wrote out a check, and gave it to my mother. I was furious, and I ordered him out of the house. I was late for my lecture, so I too left the house. I was scheduled to make a speech on the post-Trek career of William Shatner, and discovered, to my dismay, that I hadnt prepared. Id have to wing it.
Classic anxiety dream, of course, but why do I have fears of winging it? Thats my entire life. I wing everything. Sometimes I wonder if Id be better at what I do if I didnt improvise everything, but on the other hand, perhaps that would ruin it.
At least thats my self-satisfying justification. Like it? I made it up on the spot.
The very definition of marital sacrifice: we had tickets to the Guthrie tonight. Good tickets. See-the-actors-spittle tickets. The show was Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Childcare problems arose. Wife said: you go. I said: no, you were the one who had all that discomfort during childbirth. Besides, you have to get up for AM feedings. You go.
Are you sure? she said. It took a lot of convincing to make her believe I was sincere, but I was. I wanted her to go. Its not like itll be my only chance to watch Patrick Stewart act from 12 feet away.
Im writing this on the same iMac Ive written everything else this year. Nearby, its replacement churns and works. The new machine arrived Friday, and lo, what a beaut. Its the best Mac Ive ever had. I popped for the full ride, right down to the flat panel display (The small one, not the forty-gazillion dollar big one) and the jellyfish subwoofer. Its such an elegantly minimal piece of equipment that I cleared everything off the desk; it sits alone now, serene, untroubled. Set-up contained some interesting surprises:
1. The new Macs come with JFKs inaugural address. Really. The iTunes MP3 player comes with a batch of spoken-work material, including Dylan Thomas reading his poems, MLKs I have a dream speech, and others. Its almost as if the machine presumes curiosity, or erudition. Im flattered.
2. There was a moment of . . . amusement when the external hard drive didnt mount. Ha ha ha! Oh, thats rich. Well, its not like it has anything important. Just all my MP3s. Just every single one movie Ive made since August. I told myself that I would profit from redoing the movies - why, I could give them a tighter edit. Clean up the transitions. Sure. That would be great practice. Sure.
Wept with happiness when the drive finally decided to mount.
Ive spent the weekend on the movies, converting them to DVDs. Designing labels & interfaces. Backing up and backing up th backups. The movies are transferred to fresh tape. Theyll be on DVD soon. Ill make Thats two copies. Ill make VHS copies, too. And I still wont be able to trash the originals. I want eighteen backups of everything. Last year was the Stuff Reduction Project; this year, its Project Hard Copy. Printouts of everything, with dupes for off-site archives.
I dont know why I bother. Going through the old Mac, I found files from 1988. Thirteen years old, dragged from machine to machine, never read, just reincarnated again and again on new machines. And why do I still have them? Right: because they didnt matter enough to be backed up. Go figure.
New suggested TiVo term: TiVomission. Thats when the machine should record something based on your preferences, but doesnt. I didnt know whether to trustthe TiVo to record The Lone Gunman tonight, so I set it up ahead of time. I wanted to see if it would figure out on its own that this show should be recorded. In the end, I didnt trust it. And thats sad for all of us.
I remember when 800K floppies were replaced by 1.2 or so MB floppies - wow. All that space. Nearly almost sort of double the capacity! I bought a few score and transferred all the 800K data to the 1.2MB discs, saving myself at least three inches in the Shoebox of Data. It didnt take long for those discs to seem too small, of course. But then came Zip discs, with a brain-boggling 100MB! Wow! All your .snd files on one disk! Of course, eventually those seemed too thick and too small.
Today I just cut to the chase, and before burning the first DVD, I swore: 4.7 Gigabyes? THATS ALL?
I first saw Dr. Strangelove in college, and it scared me. The inexorable flight of the bombers was one thing, but to treat the subject humorously - well, I thought it was a great movie, but nuculyr combat toe-to-toe with th Rooskies was the overriding fear of the era, and the movie was too unnerving to really enjoy. I enjoy it now, but with reservations. Its really a rather sophomoric movie, with the usual glib self-congradulatory politics of the era, and it has - snort - characters with (giggle) amusing names. A military man named Buck Turgidson! Oh, thatll show those Pentagon bigwigs what we really think. Kubricks direction is all well and good, but of course its Peter Sellers who saves it; hes acting at a level so far above the heads of everyone else in the movie that he brings it all up to caliber, somehow.
Okay, right, blah blah, we all know its a classic. I bring it up for a few reasons:
1. The DVD has an interview with George C. Scott and another with Sellers; each is shown in splitscreen, answering questions that are never heard. It was standard practice in those days to send these fake interviews to local stations, who would splice their guy in the left side of the screen and ask a series of scripted questions. Scott, while pretending to listen, performs the most intense yet thoughtful cigarette smoking Ive seen in a while; people really knew how to get the most out of a Pall Mall in those days. Sellers does the interview in his American President accent - then goes off on a one-minute tour of the accents of England thats just brilliant. Worth the 20 bucks, if youre a fan of the man.
2. The DVD also has a small documentary on the movie, complete with interviews with the wife & son of the screenwriter, Terry Southern. Theyre quite eager to claim the movie as an example of Mr. Southerns brilliance, but as the documentary unspools it becomes apparent that Sellers made up most of his dialogue. On the spot. Which makes one even more impressed by Sellers talent, and less so of Southerns. Im pretty sure he was responsible for making Keenan Wynn mispronounce pervert as prevert. Ha ha.
3. Everytime you see a favorite movie, you learn something new. Last time I learned that the music - such as it is - was by Laurie Johnson, a Brit composer who worked steadily, did a lot of famous TV, and as far as I can tell never composed one memorable note. This time I noted the name of the movies art director: my new hero on earth, Ken Adam. Of course! That incredible War Room set could only come from Ken Adam. The documentaries on the James Bond DVDs have interviews with Mr. Adam, and he looks like Austin Powers smarter, more stylish brother. Mycroft Powers. Hes squat, has square glasses, smokes cigars and has a I-dont-care-if-I-get-ashes-everywhere character. He had the absolute best job one could have in the 60s: he designed lairs for supervillains. He designed the sets for Bond movies, and all that sleek European niftyness in the Connery era was his doing. I cant think of anyone as influential as Adam, inasmuch as he defined what the non-groovy unhippy 60s movie aesthetic looked like.
Take away his War Room set and Sellers performance, and Dr. Strangelove is a silly little college-boy skit.
Still upgrading the new machien - spelcheker not yhet installed, so bare with me. It woud;nt have caught that bare, anway.
Jaspers hedgehog lost its squonker many months ago; it no longer issues the panicked grunt of a beast whose fleshis being speared by the fearsome teeth of its blood-maddened killer. Dogs love that sound. Its almost as good as the hysterical peeping of small rodents, a sound found in most dog toys. But you couldnt beat that SQUONK. When the hedgehog fell silent I went back to the store for another, but theyd only had a dozen. All gone. Now the stuffing is coming out. Time to say goodbye to hedgehog, and frankly, Im glad. Its covered with stiff spit. Dog mousse. Canine tongue-paste. If you throw it at a window, the window cracks.
How he loves that toy. He only has two toys, after all. The other is a rope. In the summer, however, there is a third, as much a metaphysical construct as an actual toy: the Green Tennis Ball. They come in and out of a dogs life - they disappear one day and turn up in a creek miles away; they get thrown into the alley, never to be seen again, only to be dropped on the boulevard by another passing dog. Theres only one Green Ball. All dogs share it. Thats my theory, and of course its nonsense.
Gnat has a lot of toys, but not too many. She has a series of nesting squares which are now at the bottom of the toy box, because she fell over and hit her head on the edge of one, and cried in great surprise: pain? What is this, this pain? Waa! Most of the toys are the high-contrast multi-textured Sassy brand, designed to stimulate developing brains. You simply must challenge the childrens dendrites every moment, so theyll have giant throbbing Hawkins-strength brains by the time theyre three. If they cant make the housepet levitate by the force of their will by five, well, theyre doomed to a life of rote piecework in a factory with no fire exist.
These toys are about as loveable as a checkerboard, but thats just me. One of them - a five-armed octopus I call Quintopus - seems to be her favorite. Stacking cups are fun too. As is the rattle. And the blocks. And the mirror. And the thing that goes whirr. They all get picked up, examined with great seriousness, then banged on the floor and thrown to the far corners of the room.
Thats my morning: read an email. Start to answer it. Check Gnat - ah, shes fine, sitting on the rug, toys heaped in her lap. Finish answer. Check Gnat: now shes rolled off the mat, has her face down in the rug, and has strewn toys five feet away. Right the daughter, reassemble the troops, read next letter. Repeat until feeding.
Feeding is going well. Shes a good eater. Omnivorous. Takes the sippy cup like Ray Milland in Lost Weekend, but without the self-loathing or theramin music. As far as I know. Then its mush - either Rice, or Oatmeal, or Barley, or Mixed, which consists of dried flaked bleached newsprint. (Contains iron, niacin, and theramin.) Then its a little ration of Gerber Boiled Tripe or Mushed Paste or Pureed Water (with thickeners), most of which goes down the right pipe, some of which gets sneezed in my face. I feed her in a chair clamped to the table. I hate that chair. I can just imagine it falling off, but thats a parents lot. God help me when she gets behind the wheel of a car. Ill just imagine her skidding through an intersection, unable to brake because, after all, shes only seven months old.
Then we go back upstairs for more work. I try to pretend that shes never seen these toys before, but no ones fooled. She has one item thats full of jingle bells; I like to shake it and tell her that this is de time uf de Pon Fahr; then I roll up my eyes to simulate de Blud Feefer. No, she doesnt get the reference either.
Usually around nine theres a complete evacuation of the previous meal. Babies have an astonishing ability to crap in all directions. Up the back. Out the collar. You wouldnt be surprised to see it shoot from their cuffs. Time to go to the changing table for much amusing dialogue - why, youve soiled yourself! (She gives me a big grin) Youre awash in your own filth, yes you are! (Cackle of delight) Triple-dipped in nightsoil! (Big laugh.) After weve cleaned up, stuffed the redolent mess down the gullet of the uncomplaining diaper genie and treated the garments, its time for a nap. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesnt. If not, I shave and shower to the sound of her wailing, which is no fun at all. If she sleeps, I write. This morning I finished the syndicated column, filed, and started work on the local column.
But I have to go to work, so when she gets up we eat, clean off, bundle up, and head off to her Nanas, where she spends a merry half-afternoon playing & napping. I run to the office, eat at my desk, and write the column. Before I got this job, I never thought I could write in an office, let along during the day. Then I learned to write during the day, but only the late afternoon. Now Im in the zone from noon to two. I dont have any choice. I wouldnt have it any other way, either.
Home. Play. Sometimes we just sit around and laugh and babble and make sounds, just the sort of oogly-googly stuff I was never able to see myself doing. Now, of course, I cant get enough of it. Nap. Eat. Clean house. Make supper. Eat supper. I usually eat while cleaning up the kitchen; the daily goal is to have a good meal waiting for wife when she comes home, so she can just push the button on the microwave, nuke my creation, and spend the night with baby without having to look at a sinkful of dishes, let alone a messy house. I owe her that; I dont get up in the middle of the night for feedings, after all, and I get to sleep in on Saturday an extra hour. Least I can do.
So. Today in the Strib we had a cartoon. Two women talking. One of them says So I came home and saw that dinner was ready and the house was clean, and I thought I was in heaven. Next panel: we see theyre sitting on a cloud, wearing robes & halos. Turns out I was.
Anyway. I take a 20 minute nap, throw back a few cups of coffee, and walk Jasper while editing the column on the cellphon with copy desk. When we get home from the walk, all the days obligations are done. Jasper gets his stick. Gnat gets her goodnight kiss. Mom gets her favorite TV show.
Daddy gets himself a Makers Mark.
Damn! I love my life.
Theres a harsh pure beauty to a moonlit winters night. The snow glows blue; the ice shines. The sky is suffused with a strange pale light, flowing from the round whitehole in the heavens. I was looking up at the moon tonight, thinking how lovely it was, and how lovely the night was, and how I really hoped I hadnt broken my arm when I fell on the ice. Well, cant lie here all night admiring the sky. Lets see if we can stand.
Yes! I could stand. Whew. Jasper was waiting a few yards ahead - hed stopped when the leash went slack. I saw the leash skid on without me, automatically rewinding. It was amusing, in that out-of-body sense you get when the inadvertant happens, inadvertantly.
In the email pile today - most of which I answered with one finger, typing with Gnat in my lap; Ive assembled a little blinking-light and contrasty-block animation that I run in the corner to keep her amused - was an interesting little letter: subject line you're a faggot Text of the message you're a faggot. no one cares about your kid. Now, the author of the remark will remain nameless, right up until the point where I note that hes "aaronspringer." Its an amusing little bit of mail - youd think I had somehow forced his computer to dial up the Bleat, and then tentacles had shot from the monitor, immobilized his pimply little head and forced the little wanker to read. What interests me is that he took the time to write this stupid mail. Why?
I know, I know: Kids Today, so lacking in social graces, etc. Well, its not always kids today. Nearly everyone in Minneapolis whose byline appeared in a paper got a nasty letter from a bitter old coot named John Rickard. He was a self-styled expert on everything - especially the weather - and when you wrote something he didnt like, hed tell you. The letters adhered to classic crank-format - margin to margin, typed with such violence that the periods usually perforated the paper. You could flip them over and read them like braille. Obscene? My. The man would fly off on imaginary fits of retributory violence, wishing all sorts of death and mayhem and harm and pain to you, all because youd stated that March was usually cold when STATISTICALLY MARCH IS THE MONTH IN WHICH WARMING BEGINS YOU VILE INTENSALLY HATED LIAR. And so forth. The first time I got one, I was stunned - but I was assured that this was a rite of passage. When you got one from old John, you put it up on the office bulletin board.
Ha, ha. A harmless old nut. Right? Well, perhaps. But as off-kilter as he must have been, he knew what he was doing. His letters were hateful. He was a mean old jerk - AND NOW HES DEAD. While it is unseemly to dance on anyones grave, Ill just note this:
John Rickard wasnt half as smart as he thought he was. He couldnt spell and he had the prose style of Rumplestiltskin. He was known for the hate he sowed, and when he died, people in the local newspaper offices shared their favorite recollections, and everyone laughed. No malice - but no sorrow, either.
There. Let Google scoop that up and cache it for the ages.
Watched the Lone Gunman last night. Was prepared for disappointment; was not disappointed. It didnt skew wacky, as Id feared, and while nearly everything was laid on a bit too thick and a little too quickly, they were true to their characters. Everyone has their favorite, i suppose; I like Byers, who seems to carry a great serious sadness. In short: I was relieved. Im prepared to be impressed. Ill be content just to be amused.
Note on the score: Does Mark Snow have money invested in Amalgamated Bassoon?
Day three without spellcheck. Be kind.
Yesterday Gnat grabbed a bottle of Gerber Tender Harvest Yuppie-Slush (Mango Beetroot with Kiwi-Infused New Potatoes or some such gunk - its amazinghow these people not only have my number, but manage to sell it back to me at twice the value.) Anyway. I turned my back, and she grabbed the container and flung it to the ground. I turned around to see a great plume of pureed goop erupt from the floor and shoot across the room. It - went - everywhere. I was so impressed I got out a tape measure: the highest point was 11 feet, and the farthest point was 14 feet. I called Jasper over and pointed at the goop; I have a dog who looks at what you point at, not your finger, and hes learned that pointing usually means theres floor-food for the taking. One sniff: no thanks. Clickclickclickclick into the next room. Took five minutes to clean it off. Meanwhile, Gnats in her seat, staring out the window, hands at her side, palms out as though receiving the stigmata. Good thing she wasnt. Explain that to child protective services.
The Rear Window DVD arrived today. Cant wait, although I will, so obviously I can.
Did Jimmy Stewarts apartment have a front window? Not that I recall. It faced the interior court, but I wouldnt call it a rear window. By that definition, every apartment in the movie has nothing but a rear window. And since all these apartments are oriented towards the courtyard, they all have front windows, not rear windows.
This movie sucks already!
Anyway, cant, but will, wait. The movie just fascinates me for its stagey New Yorkedness - the neighborhood bar, the streamlined buses lumbering past, men in hats on a hot summer night, the everpresent presence of everyone else above and below and all around - and, at the same time, a deafening sense of apartness. Its probably why I stay in the same quasi-crummy hotel every year when I go to New York. I know the view. Ive known it for a long time. It doesnt know me, but I never expect anything in New York to know me, and thats the pleasure in going there. I have stories about the two of us it doesnt remember. Gives me an advantage.
For the last few nights Ive been scowling my way through a six-part Learning Channel history of Rome. I bought it on DVD, since it sounded like just the sort of thing I enjoy - breezy history imparted with maps, busts, panoramic shots of ruins and mosaics, a few slow-mo scenes of battle shot in a forest with some local lads in costume whooping it up. A recent series on early Greece was wonderfully done, and I figured this would be more of the same. Six hours, after all: you can pack a lot of history in that space.
Or, in this case, you can just show the same ruins over and OVER and OVER again and the same stupid shot off an emperor sitting down primly on his throne - he looks like hes about to empty his bowels in a chamber pot full of baby alligators - and the same insipid music cues over and OVER again. Its an utter waste. I wasnt expecting Gibbon, but this is like the Bazooka Joe comic version of the Roman Empire. To sum it up: Rome rose, hung around, and fell. Did you know that Romans were rather brutal in their politics and entertainment, but capable of great engineering feats? Really!
Its inexcusable. I was promised a rich tour of the monuments of Rome, and I just get the standard sunset flybys. Apparently it would bore people to show us what these buildings look like close up, what they were used for, and what they looked like then. (The extras on the DVD have some reconstructions, but why not incorporate them into the documentary?) Imagine a six-part series on WW2 that consists entirely of maps, pictures of Ike, Stalin and Winnie, a slow-mo shot of three grunts running up a hill, some Patton-soundtrack trumpets and a snippet of Dont Sit Under the Apple Tree, and you have this disc. Avoid.
Anyone wants to buy it, Ill entertain a reasonable offer
Good brisk quick day. Woke slow. Answered all the mail - and bless everyone who passed along a nice note after reading yesterdays bleat; honest, I wasnt trolling for support. I used that little neckboils letter to illustrate something that always confounds me on the net - the random, dank, nasty vitriol that people blast in the face of strangers. I frequent a few discussion boards, and the level of miserable cruelty is just astonishing sometimes. If these people were clever, it would be one thing; a good fit of invective is enjoyable to read, particularly if the subject deserves it. But these twerps are just obscene, and they have no idea how tiresome it appears, and how boringly ordinary they all look.
Now, Geek talk, for those with nothing better to read.
Im designing the interface for the first home-movie DVD, and this program - Apples newbie-level iDVD - doesnt allow individualized placement of buttons. I can understand their desire to simplify the process for people who dont have a clue, but its annoying to those of us who have one, if not more, clues. This entire project is quite amusing, in a way; Im fretting over this first disc - Im committing to a certain font for all the 2000 discs! Or should I vary them from month to month? Photos for background, or clip art? What of the disc label - should it reflect the interface or should it be a still from a movie? On the way home from the walk tonight, I had two revelations:
1. In the past, guys just shot 8mm, used masking tape on the reel for a label, wrote something like Picnic with kids and tossed it in a box. That was the extent of your interface worries.
2. I have no home movies of my family. None. Yet I remember everything that needs remembering. So even if I screw up the interface and the DVD degrades someday or the medium falls out of favor, its safe to say Gnat will still have a rich, happy life.
Its not like these things are going to Sundance, after all. But. The camcorder shoots in widescreen 16:9 mode. I have a 16:9 TV. I could edit in 16:9 if I got Final Cut Pro. I could really do some nifty stuff if I shot everything wide - man, how cool would that be? Its like the early home movies on my Treasures of the American Film Institute DVDs - the early color & sound movies of hobbyists and proto film geeks. Panavision baby movies!
I wrote a letter to Extensis tech support this morning. After installing all the geegaws for the graphics program, my invaluable drop-shadow-maker decided to go utterly mental - it would draw a rectangle around the selected object, and give it the drop shadow. Extensis promptly wrote back: version 1.0 is no longer supported.
Oh! Well, thatll learn me, eh? Here I go and buy a program and expect the people who sold it to answer a simple question down the road. Fine; be that way. Youre not the only drop-shadow-maker in these here parts, mister.
Which leads me to an embarassing admission. This entire site has been constructed with Photoshop LE, which, in Photoshop terms, is about one step up from Colorforms. Ive been teaching myself Photoshop 5 for some time, and its all hopped up on goofballs to me - takes a while to understand, intuitively, this whole layers paradigm. When I would select something and try to drag it, and it stayed right where it was, I felt like Gnat when she grasps at a design printed on her chair.
Back to work. Ive movies to render and movies to watch. A fine weekend awaits; have yourself one too.