||Harrumph. I had expected to sign on to Amazon today and find that the Gallery was somewhere in the lower depths of the Movers & Shakers list, but no: it didnt make the list. Its behind The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook : Secrets from the East Hampton Specialty Food Store for Simple Food and Party Platters You Can Make at Home by Ina Garten, Martha Stewart. Its probably behind "Management Techniques of Herman Goering." Its probably behind a Doom novelization.
For the moment, anyway.
What I did find in my mailbox was a rather substantial bill for bandwidth. For some reason August was a heavy month. Nine gigs a day. So I either pay the bill and write it off, or I buy more bandwidth, which is not cheap. Were at a bit of a crossroads here. I mean, Ill gladly pay the hosting fees for this thing, but Im not going to pay three grand a year in extra expenses.
Parasites! Leeches! I'm dyin' here! Buy my book!
I really have to work on refining my sales technique.
Just kidding about the harrumphing part. I appreciate everyone who's pre-ordered - more than you know. And I'll figure out the bandwidth problem; last time I mentioned this, I got a ton of good suggestions.
Hot day; not the last by any means, but you can sense fall coming. Tonight I was paused beneath a streetlight, waiting for Jasper to birth te evenings cudgel, and I saw heaps of leaves in the gutters. Hadnt noticed them before. But once the clock strikes September, these details start to add up. More leaves. Trees on fire; trees half-clothed; trees scratching the sky with empty arms. The grass stays green but its asleep now, dreaming of warm rains. Birds leave. Pumpkins appear. Last year fall and winter arrived perfectly - Gnat had given us both a sense of each day as a dense & concentrated object, and we paid attention like never before. Im still doing that. In fact I welcome the fall; something new for Gnat to see. I look forward to Halloween - Im going to set up operations in the garage. No more the genial oh well, what are you? Why, youre Kid Rock, isnt that adorable! fellow; Im going to actually try to scare them. Theyll have to enter the garage and approach me, and of course Ill be in the tunnel, backlit in red, with dry ice and the moans of the damned coming from behind. I wont say a word.
This should cut down on the annoying little ungrateful princess types.
Anyway. Im still beat on this whole web thing for the moment, and I just want to go relax outside while I can. The new Gallery is still open for your enjoyment, if you missed yesterdays announcement.
Nine gigs a day! Criminey Joe.
||Gnat has made the leap to TV-addled youth. Shes in love with her Baby Doolittle and Baby Van Gogh tapes. When I put them in the machine and she sees the animated insect crawl across the street, she cackles and bounces, and watches with rapt glee. To my great relief, however, she is bored during the annoying musical number. The singer projects the kinderlieder version a lounge singers unctuous smarm - you can just imagine him shooting you two index fingers like that bartender on the Love Boat. Gnat gets restless. But she loves the classical music selections. I dont believe this means that she is naturally attuned to the stuff, nor do I believe that classical music necessarily creates some sort of accelerated development. Its not an ointment you can rub on their souls. Yes, complexity begats complexity - but Bolero? Thats the classical equivalent of a Led Zep drum solo. Theres nothing inherantly instructive about an except from Carmen if its scored for kazoo.
Thank you, thank you: if I never get higher than #4 (for at least one hour) on the Amazon Movers & Shakers list, Ill always treasure that moment. Below Stephen King but above Ann Rice! Naturally, I called agent and editor; the latter passed it along to the publisher at Crown, who was pleased - and then asked a simple question: why today?
Because of all the people who clicked on the Bleat link and bought the book. This was more timely than you know. This morning I reached my Account Executive at Interland, where my site lives. It turns out that my 30GB ration is not only insufficient to this sites needs, its about to shrink to 10GB the next time my plan comes up for renewal. Given that Im running at 100GB per month (!) he said I have to get off the shared server, and get my own dedicated server. How much? Only $425. Ah, well, fine; thats what I pay every two years now!
No, thats $425 per month. And that doesnt cover the bandwidth.
So it appeared, and still appears, that I have a rather simple choice: shut down huge swaths of the site, or pay six grand a year for a personal website.
Lets flip a coin!
For a while I was just . . . sad. Not depressed, not angry, but resigned & forlorn. Its as if Id been handed a verdict: the Internet is Full. All the projects Id hoped to add in the future were on hold, indefinately, and stuff thats already up would have to go. You can imagine my dismay. No Mpls Modern, no U of M site (with the big spanking and utterly necessary Dinkytown 1978 site) no 1926 site (this was a stupidly ambitious thing Ive been working on for half a year - an attempt to reconstruct daily life in Minneapolis in 1926, through ads, photos, newspapers, songs, etc.) No Nicollet Av. site. No more Comics additions. Surely no more Motel stuff, since one day of Motel Postcard traffic blew a months bandwidth back in August.
Its peculiar: you must give up your hobbies now. Its like learning that basement is being filled with concrete, so youd better dissemble the train set.
To be honest, I dont know what Im going to do. Im a bit stunned by this. Probably should have seen it coming. But still.
Then I had that odd clammy sensation many of you might recognize: what if this has all been a colossal waste of time? What if this Internet thing was just a ridiculous detour, a prodigal expenditure of time and money? Why not just shut it off and go play outside? I wouldnt be the first. Good websites die daily; people get tired, quit, move along. And to be frank Ive been toying with that idea myself for a few months now. Move the Bleat to a weekly feature. I even had the logos all designed, the page laid out: The Monday Post, it was called. But that would just be a short stop to eventual death. Either the site is a going concern, an ongoing thing, or its going to be gone.
So heres how its going to work.
1. The Interior Desecrators site is gone. That was one of the biggest consumers of bandwidth. A much, much smaller version will be up in a few days, and it will hype:
2. The book version of Interior Desecrators, which Im working on now. Itll include the Gobbler, of course.
3. Im going to find a new host, and soon. This will be a temporary fix, since:
4. Im going to investigate setting up my own server and hosting the thing from home. If thats possible. If it is, then all the additions will be added, as well as all the things Ive wanted to do, including a little weekly radio show.
Leave the web? Were all just getting started, for heavens sake.
I know this weeks Bleats have all been rather insular, more about the contrusions suffered in the course of working on this fargin site; apologies. Better Bleats en route. Now buy the book! That bastiche King cant lord it over me forever!
Not often you can use two Johnny Dangerously curses in one graf; couldnt pass up the opportunity.
||My antipathy for the seventies has been laboriously & tendentiously documented; what Ive concealed is my almost painful love for some of its unloved remnants. I can, for example, hum the entire theme of Search, a one-season private-eye show that featured a rotating cast of Tony Franciosa, Doug McClure, and - hoby hugs, everyone! - Hugh OBrien. (HOBY is, or was, one of his youth charities; I stumbled on a webpage for the organization years ago, and it proclaimed HOBY HUGS! with a breathless glee that gives me the cheevers to this date.) Comics from the early seventies have a nostalgic appeal that you cant understand unless you were 12 and deeply steeped in the glories of Kirby and Ditko. I could go on. But theres something Ive been watching this week that may be the sole unsullied 70s memory I own:
Lets Make a Deal.
It was my favorite game show, I realize now. And for good reason - unlike the four-proles-a-leaping panel of Price is Right, it had this bizarre audience of people who were distinguished by two facts: none of them could make a good costume, and ALL of them were in costumes. Horrible homemade stuff based on groaning puns, hand-lettered signs, bad moustaches, random teeth, poxy skin and bright eyes. The host - Monty Hall - keeps up a level of patter that never varied in tone, timber, pace or dynamics - you could just gulp that voice like warm fizzy soda. He had his sidekick Jay, tricked out in garish plaids, schlepping boxes up and down the stairs. Beneath a box today - or rather, 26 years ago - was a bottle of Wella Balsam shampoo, and I not only recognized it as a faithful inhabitant of the family shower, I could remember the scent and feel of that silky beige liquid. Gesturing placidly at the curtains, of course, was Thelovely Carrolmerril, her long graceful fingertips stopping a sliding TV set in its tracks. Its all coming back to me now: these furs are from Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills; these appliances are from the White Consolidated Industries; this lovely silver is from the Michael J. Fina company of New York.
And its all scored by a strange faceless combo - bass, drums, keyboard, guitar, and harp. It never occured to me then, but its obvious now - they had a live band on the set. And what a set! All bleachers. The elect sat in the front; the hoi polloi in the back, in seats that stretched up to heaven; there was always a double door exit visible in the background, a detail too prosaic to include today. Every so often youd see someone in the back dressed in costume, forlorn, looking like a Calvinist who wound up in hell.
What makes the show work is the brutal inability of anyone to correctly predict the outcome of their decision. If two boxes have held good prizes, the third might hold a bad one. (Or, as its known in LMAD parlance, a zonk.) Or, it might not. No logic. I watched a woman lose two cars: she held on to her box, and watched with dismay as the prize she scorned turned out to be a car. There was no greater moment in the show than the daily Dispensation of the Automobile - in those days, this was a tremendous prize, and nothing made the audience roar as when Jay exulted A NEW CAR! Having seen that shed lost A NEW CAR! the woman stuck to her box, and when they revealed what shed turned down, it was A NEW CAR! O cruel fate - having plucked out mine eyes, must thou steal my tongue as well?
Her eventual prize: a clutch of Chuckles, the box bearing the endorsement of Evel Knievel.
Everything else on the Game Show Network - well, everything from the 70s - is smarm and schlock, dripping with the thin ichor of rancid celebrities. Not Lets Make a Deal. This is America in the later 60s, right here. Most people think the late 60s was Woodstock - nah. Thats the revisionist history. Most people rolled thier eyes at the counterculture stuff; they either ignored it or hated it. Thats why its called the counterculture. Average people were not interested in Cream or who was playing at the Fillmore. They were interested in whether that can of Turtle Wax was, after all, the cheapest item on Jays shelf.
My Mom liked Monty Hall. He seems like someone whod be fun at parties, she said once, and that always stuck with me - I imagined Mom at the party in which she imagined herself, everyone dressed up, relaxed, and laughing at the clever remarks and bright crinkly smile of Monty Hall.
Im sure the program came on at 11:30, right before Noonday (with Ken Kennedy.) During the school year I got to see the Big Deal of the Day if I made it home for lunch. In summer I probably watched it with Mom while we waited for Dad to come home for lunch. Outside the window: bright sun, the tall poplars of the backyard, the jungle gym waiting; green grass and birdsong and an entire summer ahead. When the theme music came on the first time I watched the show this week, I hummed it all, and didnt miss a note. Its silly, noisy nonsense, but its absolutely glued to a happy time in my life. I wouldnt trade it for anything.
Except A NEW CAR!
||A statement that does not impress ones wife: hey, look! I just realized that from the basement bathroom, you can see the TV!
How you know youve really been a dorkwad of a customer: when you apologize to your stereo salesman for having been a dorkwad, she responds thats all right.
Number of times I cursed the previous owneress of this house today for being just downright petty in her petty meanness, because she left me with 10 white Monster Cables spilling out of the wall, three of which have labels - I mean, did it occur to her that this would be a nightmare for someone trying to figure out how to hook things up? Probably - but, well, I was the SPAWN OF BEEZEBUB because I didnt roll over and tuck tail when she wanted to change RIGHT NOW the closing date SHE originally proposed. Did she think they can just figure it out for themselves as she packed up and moved? Probably. Nasty and petty: a winning combination.
Oh, yes - number of curses: innumerable.
Note something different about the site? Such as, its GONE? Well, it it is. And that requires a little backstory.
Its bad enough to have 168 unread letters, but its even worse to have 216 you have read but havent answered. Since most of them concerned this site, the Bleat and the sucking chest wound sustained last week when I got my first bandwidth bill, Im afraid Im going to have to answer everyone here. Relax! This should be fun.
1. Yes, the entire site is gone. Well, most of it. The Institutes up, minus Interior Desecrators, Im afraid.
2. The full extent of the devastation can be seen by checking the main index page, but dont - not yet.
3. Its all coming back, eventually. Worst case: Jan 02. Best case: October. This will be accomplished by a variety of means:
A) moving a large chunk, if not all, of the site to my newspapers webservers. No, I havent talked to them about this yet. Yes, it will take some pleading, but this ties into something else I really cant talk about at the moment.
B) Breaking into the server farm that currently holds the site, and, suspended by wires from the ceiling, hacking into the mainframe, granting myself root privs, and installing a program that makes it look as if I only transfer 3k per day
C) Reducing the chunky images on this site. Ive been chided, gently & otherwise, by many for the heft of some of these pictures. Theres a reason: the old program I was using had crappy JPEG compression. (we interrupt this general-knowledge paragraph for some real hardline nerdery. Six correspondants used the phrase compression, compression, compression, compression. Three included a link to explain the reference. Three didnt, which pleased me; I liked the assumption. Unfortunately, its one syllable off, and I never sweat that much. We now return you to stuff that makes sense to everyone.) Im now using a program that allows much more precise compression, and hence Im running every single fargin picture through the thing. Theres a certain level of blockiness I just wont accept, but additional graininess? I can live with it. I did the entire motel site this afternoon, and it went from 8.1 MB to 6.9. Every bit counts.
4. It pained me to erase the site. Stupid as this sounds, if I hadnt known it was all coming back it would have been a horribly depressing event - its like tracking down all copies of your books and burning them. The Mpls site, for example, isnt the most popular by any means, but for those who want it, theres nothing else like it. Nothing else on the web has that much stuff about downtown. The comics section also hurt - its one of my favorites, an odd little corner of forgotten art. (Shaved 1.8 MB off that one.) Does the site need it? No. But its the sort of thing Id like to stumble across. It will return.
5. By way of thanks for everyone who continues to patronize the site, there will be a Picture of the Week for the duration. Odd postcards, ads that were slated for the Permanent Collection of Impermanent Art, other such peculiarities.
6. Some have suggested that I add ads. Correction: no one has suggested I add ads. I take this as a sign. But some have suggested that I put out the tin cup for donations - Paypal or Amazon. I cant. I dont think it would cover the charges I might have faced - and while it would be nice to have the charges defrayed, I dont want to nickel & dime people or guilt em into helping out. Thanks for all the offers of financial support, but I decided to do this thing for free, and thats still the idea. If you like it, buy the book.
7. This is the end of the handwringing over the sites future. When things are better, the index page will be back to normal. I wish I could thank everyone individually, but lifes extreeeemely busy right now, and its all I can do to keep up the bleat. Its going to take at least ten hours to compress everything, and thats the hour a day I used to spend on mail.
8. New bed, which means a deliveryman story. New speakers, which means an electronics store rant. New Royle Family, which means more erroneous presumptions about British life. But that's another Bleat. See you tomorrow. And the days thereafter, big blobby site or not.
||(written Monday evening)
Its cold. It was cold this morning. It was warm this afternoon - sweet summer warmth, assured and unstinting . . . then the breeze would come around the corner, a loitering & insolent spirit, and youd shiver. The tree at the end of the block has the touch of October to its uppermost leaves. Fall: soon. I realized walking around the neighborhood this morning that I dont know the vocabulary here, the order of things - on the old street, there was always one tree that jumped the gun, the arboreal equivalent of wearing white before it was socially proper; it always stood out and looked self-conscious. The tree at the end of the block made a spectacular transition; last to go was the maple on the neighbors boulevard. I saw that show seven times; glad I wont have to miss it this year, either.
After all, were just a few blocks away. It does seem like we live on the other side of the river, and I say that because A) were on the other side of Lyndale Avenue, and B) were actually on the other side of the river. So you can see why Id feel that way. But. The old block, or the Nabe as Id never in a million years call it, is still one of my favorite spots in the city. Saturday was the Block Party. And of course I went back.
Last year Gnat was a small red comma curled in our arms, passed around from neighbor to neighbor as we sat around the bonfire. Jasper roamed the periphery, gorging on dropped cake and random hamburger. Last year I just walked out of the front door to the party, and walked up the steps when it was done.
This year I drove. Parked, opened the stroller, inserted baby and went around the corner - a big sad stone sat on my heart when I saw the street. The lights. The barricades. The neighbors. It wasnt like going home; it was going home, and sometimes the saddest visits home are the ones in which you know home isnt the home it was when home was home.
Still with me?
I had my official party shirt - a Lileks Oil bowling shirt Ive worn to every party, and which now only gets used for the holiest of occasions. We sailed into the crowd, and I have to say the reaction was perfect: the fact that wed come back wasnt a big surprise. Of course wed come back! Why not? Who wouldnt? (There are other former Girardians who come back as well.) I explained that my wife would be along in a while, but in the meantime: heres Gnat! Much cooing and oohing, recollections of her wee ruddy squalling state last year. Caught up with folks I havent seen in a month, or a week, or a year; had a cigar with the menfolk, talked child care with the womenfolk. Sara arrived when the guys brought out the brazier - I lit the bonfire with the ceremonial Zippo, and showed Gnat the Miracle of Fire.
Nothings more boring that hearing about parties youve not been to, so Ill leave it at that. Except to say: You can go home again, if you dont stay too long. God forbid I should ever leave this city - on the weekend after Labor Day, Ill always think of the street, the raggedly string of lights, the bonfire, the neighbors either huddled against the cold or relaxed in the balm of a late-summer heatwave, the happy stumble-tongued conversations with the menfolk around the keg, and the strange ache you feel the next morning when you look out the window and see the remains of the party scattered on the boulevard - streamers in the gutter, a bottle of ketchup sitting neatly on a curb, an unclaimed pan, a chair passed out on someones lawn. That sight said Summers Done.
And that was fine with us.