01 .14 .02
It’s not often you see a man on TV being burned to death, and rarer still when there’s play-by-play. I wandered past the TV tonight, expecting to see the TiVo recording another dismaying iteration of the Simpsons, and I saw a man strapped to a metal chair, revolving counter-clockwise while he was blasted with hot air, licked by flames, steadily deprived of oxygen and interrogated by an unseen Torquemada. Here’s the good part: it’s a quiz show. Here’s the really good part: the answer to the question was “Lego.”
The show is called The Chamber! and it features people who are mildly tortured while answering questions that wouldn’t tax a ten year old. And I’m sure that’s the next show: ten year olds are strapped into The Chamber and given age-appropriate mortifications, such as being held upside down with their heads in a toilet bowl and mechanically rotated at greater velocity. Fifteen year old boys will be tortured by suspension over a supermodel in front of their parents.

It’s time to start . . . running! Away, that is, as fast as you can.

Just remembered that the old gladiator called out of retirement to capture Arnie in "The Running Man" is, in fact, the governor of my state now. So keep your eye on the Chamber’s host; he’ll probably be Lord Protector of the Western Lands after society finally collapses.

Saw “Ocean’s 11” this weekend, and did so remembering how much the original sucked. It’s hard to believe why anyone holds the old movie in esteem, since half the cast is drunk and the rest hungover, and it’s a long lazy thing with all the wit and enthusiasm of Dean Martin at 8:37 AM. The new version was . . . the best movie EVER! Well, no. But I was deeply grateful for the lack of gunplay, car chases and scenes in which the hero outrunning a fireball down a hallway. It’s a caper film, with all the obligatory touchstones of the genre - a big Mission: Impossible episode and everyone underacts to great effect. I like George Clooney; he seems like Cary Grant’s slightly nasty brother. Brad Pitt spends the entire movie looking down or off to the side with an expression of bemusement; he’s probably making eye contact with a mirror. Carl Reiner redeemed himself for every movie he made in the middle 80s. Julia Roberts, who has edited herself down to 62 teeth and six pounds of flesh, five of which are lips, was unnecessary. Elliot Gould provided the obligatory tit shot\, oddly enough. He played that old established caper film archetype, the gay Jewish retired casino owner. Don Cheadle, a great actor who made the best Mouse an Easy Rawlins reader could EVER want, played a Brit with a Cockney accent. The movie gave him a curious line of dialogue:

“If it doesn’t work," he said, "it’ll be Barney.”
“Barney?” someone replies.
“Barney. Barney Rubble. Trouble.”

Now, I got it, because I remember reading an article by Anthony Burgess explaining the roots of the patois he invented for “Clockwork Orange,” and he spent some time explaining Cockney rhyming slang. It has different styles, but one of them seems to be rhyming a phrase then removing the rhyme - hence “Barney” is slang for “Trouble” via your unspoken Rubble. I am pretty sure I was one of two people in the audience who got it, and the number of Americans who got it numbered in the low thousands. O wonderful me. But it just seemed an odd throaway line -

I just realized why the line was there. Don Cheadle: Black guy who’s the techno-gizmo expert. Think Mission Impossible. Barney, indeed.

Nearly every other line of dialogue was aimed over my head. Literally: it was one of those new stadium-seat theaters, with big comfy chairs on a steeply raked floor. Everyone saw over everyone else. The woman behind me laughed out loud at everything remotely amusing in the film, no matter how obvious or mild. That’s who these movies are made for. Well, she had a fine time and so did I.

Afterwards we got take-out at a new Chinese restaurant around the corner from the theater. (This is all in Southdale, the first big enclosed mall in the world, the Fertile Crescent of Mall civilization.) The restaurant was packed and the din was so great you could have dropped a daisy cutter in the middle of the joint and the people along the wall wouldn’t have heard or felt a thing. Since there was no place for people to sit while waiting for a table, everyone was sent to the bar in the rear, where people stood six deep yelling at each other. No one in the restaurant could hold a conversation, but everyone was trying, which made for the hideous clamor. Maybe I’m just old, but I no longer want my evenings to resemble Monday morning in the commodities pit.

That was Saturday. Sunday lacked those pell-mell thrills but satisfied nonetheless. Watched Gnat in the morning as usual, but since it was a weekend we were stuck with PBS cartoons, which are careul and earnest and bore her in in a minute. Then I remembered, as I always do, that there’s three hours of Warner Brothers cartoons on the weekend. You get it all - the gay squirrels, the conniving mice, Foghorn Leghorn (there are only about 3 or 4 good FL cartoons, but they’re top notch - you won’t find any other cartoon character who can carry off a line like “boy makes as much noise as a skeleton pitchin’ a fit on a tin roof.” Although the plot of half the FLs usually concerns a small chickenhawk who is attempting to kill FL, since he’s a chicken, and there’s something disconcerting about that; we usually don’t think it’s a bird-eat-bird world out there.) They played the Barber of Seville, Maltese’s masterwork, ably abetted by Chuck Jones, and there were three Yosemite Sams. I love Sam. Of the second-tier characters, he’s my favorite. Every emotion turned up to 11, except for Lust; when confronted with wimmenfolk - or rather, the prospect of - he goes gooey and bashful and delirious with chaste joy. Mel Blanc must have had vocal-cord notes the size of cupcakes by the time he was done with one of those sessions.

I spent the afternoon scanning & writing the second chapter of the Flotsam Cove entry, Murder at the Casablanca Lounge. Part One is here, if you missed it. Part Two is here. And there’s a new Gnat picture here. And a Screed, on Modern Art and its Peculiar Convictions. Have fun.


It snowed last night, one of those instant-winter dump jobs that remakes this oddly barren world. I say “odd” because the trees have been bereft for months, but the snowless ground glowed green. Dead green, yes, mummy-skin lawns, yes, but when the temps were in the high 40s it made everything feel like March, a world on the verge of the season of life. Then came the snow. It was like calling up MODE in Photoshop and changing the world from RGB to Greyscale. At midnight I went out to shoot some video, and I had my iPod on - man, if anyone stays up late and watches me with FLIR or nightvision, I must look like a raving idiot, standing on the cliff and conducting the music. Honey, wake up! He’s outside again surrounded by stinging winged insects!

I shot more video this morning, because Gnat was acting in a bizarre manner, and I wanted proof. She lays on the ground and makes silly lip-fart noises, laughs and drinks from her sippy cup - which I believe contained fermented Yo-J. If she got up and hugged the dog and said You - are - the BEST dog. Ever. I mean that. I love! This! Dog! I’d know she was sauced.

She slept it off for an hour, and I took the opportunity to shower and eat, rigged for silent running; that hour is precious, and I hate to hear the tell-tale wail too soon. Listened to a radio show about Only Children - the host, the patient and thoughtful Dennis Prager, wondered whether it was right to have another kid just to keep the other company. Many interesting calls followed, alternately assuaging and pricking my conscience. I don’t know how I’d handle another. I certainly couldn’t give Gnat much attention, and I couldn’t work at all, and our days together would be oblique and scattered. She will most likely be an only child. I’d like to think she’ll thank us; I hope she forgives us.

Listened to another radio show in the afternoon, Mike Medved - he always annoyed the living krep out of me as a movie critic; he seemed like a prissy persnickety prude, and he was so hyperwired you could imagine forcing downers down his thoat like pills down a dog’s maw. But he is smart and articulate; like Prager, he is quite devout, which I am not, and like Prager he is interested in metaphysics. Not theology - metaphysics. Those who disparage AM talk radio might find these shows much more intellectually satisfying than NPR’s wonk-drone and twee humor; on NPR I always feel as if the host is setting out the issues to dry in the sun. I rarely get the impression of passion and fairness I get with Prager, or disquisitional tenacity I hear in Medved. Plus, he has great guests, hammer-and-tong arguments, and smart callers. NPR is the voice of Washington, and it sounds like it. They haven’t yet realized that Washington is not America.

I used to flip back and forth between Medved’s show and the one I used to listen to, the one on the station I used to work for and never expected to forsake,. Now I just sit through the commercials. Today I tried an experiment: let’s switch back at random and see how long it takes for someone to employ one of the show’s cliches. If I hear a cliche in ten seconds or less, I switch the station. If I don’t hear a cliche, and can tell what the topic of conversation is within 20 seconds, I stay.

Click. Count. One . . .two . . .three . . . cliche.

Well, that’s not fair. I waited a while, tried again: took six seconds. This is fun! I waited a few minutes switched back: five seconds. (For those in the local Mpls market who know what I’m talking about, the cliches were: “giving him the needle,” “they need a ruling,” and “she has issues.”) Meanwhile, on the other station, the guest was describing the Roman cultural tradition of female infanticide.

Radio is a strange medium, the most intimate of them all. I’ve been off the air for a few years, and a few weeks ago the person who took our pizza order on the phone looked at the name on his caller-ID screen and said “Oh, I remember from his radio show that he likes lots of extra sauce.” I can still remember Larry King’s closing schtick from 19 years ago; people still ask me about G. Charles, the wonderful human cartoon whose show I took over in 1987. I wish I missed it, but I don’t, and I suppose that’s why I’m not doing it. I still miss the Diner, though - and should I ever want to get back into radio, and the Dark Chef is manning the boards, it would seem as if no time had passed. Let’s just say I am grateful to have had the chance to do it when I really needed to do it, and feel lucky that I got out before it became a job. Rather be a writer who occasionally does radio than a radio guy who also styles himself a writer. Radio, in the end, evaporates daily. Words endure.

He says, convincing himself and reinforcing the wisdom of decisions regretted deep in the night when standing on the cliff, gesturing at the snow, and thinking: this would be kick-ass bumper music.

Ran some errands today: Toys ‘r Us for new Richard Scarry videos (didn’t have any, but they did have Resevoir Dogs action figures for the little kids. Really. Didn’t see whether they came with a razor, a can of gas and grippable hand for Real Mutilating Action.) Went to Target for Target stuff; Gnat was being extra adorable, saying “daddy!” and kissing my hand. I’ve been her hero today. She just thinks I hung the moon. God, it’s wonderful. I looked for a coffee grinder - yes, I’ve broken down. At the grocery store yesterday I sniffed the bin of the Unflavored Beans grinder, and it stank of perfidious hazelnut. Not worth the risk. But Target had no coffee grinders. I found a clerk who confirmed the fact by ingenious means; he whipped out a pistol-shaped scanning device from his leather holster, pointed it at the bar codes that listed the price for the absent grinders, and confirmed that the store was out. Cool: the device communicates wirelessly with the store’s inventory mainframe. There was something about the moment that was highly American: the guy was North African, speaking heavily accented English, young, cheerful, completely plugged in and happy to talk about the device to the curious North Dakotan.

I’m sorry, I forgot - this is a racist country that grinds people down into small soul-crushing jobs.

Which reminds me: I’m watching Ric Burns’ “New York” documentary, and it’s a corker. The first two discs, being the Ancient Past, consist mostly of pans across maps and portraits, but the archival material is exceptional, the information clear and well-selected. (Odd music choices: they used “Music for a Found Harmonium” by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, but for some reason had someone else perform it.) The project is huge, but doesn’t come freighted with the tonnage that usually accompanies a KEN BURNS! production. (Note to Ken Burns: the 70s called. Your facial hairstyle has expired.) But I have an odd reaction everytime the camera shows the World Trade Center:

I want to be bad. I want to throw stones at birds. I want to embezzle from my employer and lie to my wife; I want to gamble my daughter’s college fund. I want to live a life of petty evil so I end up in hell, and I can spend eternity kicking Mohammad Atta’s ass.

It would almost be worth it.


Today: your Amazon dollars at work; Nader unsafe at any screed; techno joys; nothing about Tim Blair.

Go read the Backfence - the first half has some stuff I enjoyed writing. Wednesday columns are the easiest; I don’t know why, but they just fall out of the fingers. I was writing about McDonald’s and Burger King, and described Hardee’s as the Ralph Nader Candidacy of the fast-food world. Took the line out, because it would make some, if not all, go huh? But I’d seen Nader on TV the previous night, and he had made me stand up and shout POPPYCOCK! at the TV. (There’s actually a candy in America called Poppycock, and makes you wonder if other alternate universes offer Balderdash! and Bullshit! as caramel-coated peanutty treats.) Nader - who had this weird one-eye squint, like a lanky Brutus blended with the Sea Captain - said he woulda sorta gone after Al Qaeda, by making the Taliban realize their survival was threatened by harboring bin Laden. Great strategy, Ralph - by all means, let’s keep the Taliban in power. And how would he have acted militarily? “Bribes, spies, and special forces”he said, forgetting to note that we not only tried all three, they required strenuous application of bombs capable of atomizing a decent-sized county fair. And if the Taliban hadn’t handed over bin Laden, as they showed no inclination to do with an entire fleet a hour’s flight from their capital, why would they have cowered at the prospect of SpecOps forces rooting around in empty caves?

He also said he would have called in the counsel of grizzled old generals and admirals - i.e., retired guys out of the loop. I don’t know what he would expect them to say beyond the obvious - “deploy as much force as possible to kill as many as needed until the other side quits.” He would have disregarded such advice, since he eschewed the use of air power. Maybe he was thinking of those Grizzled Old Salts who had realized, in their dotage, that force doesn’t solve anything. I can imagine the conversation:

“Sometimes I look back on my service, and I see a lot of wasted treasure, Mr. Nodor; waste and folly.”

(Ralph nods sagely, soaking up the Wisdom of Experience.)

“Why, look at all the money we spent in the Gulf War,” the general continues, pausing to spit a thick brown ribbon of chaw-juice into the wind.

(Ralph nods, wishing he hadn’t just learned a new definition of “blowback.”)

“And the goddamn towelheads still run the place.”

(Ralph nods, suddenly wishing that he hadn’t cancelled a meeting with the Joint Chiefs for this.)

On the way home from work I put in the new New Order remix disc, and turned it up very loud. When I’m in the mood for techno, which is most of the time, there’s nothing more satisfying than an eight-minute hypnotic repetition of six distinct elements repeated without variation. I’m serious. I go all the way back to childhood with this stuff; I bought the soundtrack to the Andromeda Strain, which was more musique concrete than electronica, but the title track had a certain fuzzy electronic throb I loved. I started to explore more, and checked out a Stockhousen disk from the Fargo Public Library (O cultural wasteland that is North Dakota, with its mean libraries containing but one example of DGG-issued experimental electronic music) and I found it . . . okay, but it wouldn’t replace Mungo Jerry. Then came Kraftwerk, and electronic music was saved. Again, I’m serious. The debt pop music owes to those two proto-Sprockets is boundless, and in their own way they fufilled the intentions of the artists of the 20s and 30s: finding a voice for the machine culture. The machines just happened to be simple boxes with buttons, not Magog-morphing steam engines from Metropolis.

Not everyone’s cup of oil, I know, and that’s fine. Some people’s tastes horrify me too. The other day in the record store I was looking for a recording of “Study in Brown,” a swing tune I’d never heard before until it came up on the satellite dish Big Band channel. (God bless the satellite dish; tonight Gnat fell over and hit her head, and to wipe the tears away I found the Disco channel and we danced to the Bee Gee’s “Tragedy.” There’s a song that should have been far more popular than it was; it had all the right componants for hit status, but it has the feeling of being made, and released, exactly one day after everyone decided they were sick of disco.) So I was on the floor of the store handing CDs to Gnat to keep her busy, and I came across the most mortifying CD I’d ever seen:

Swing Dancing to the Grateful Dead.

These are irreconcilable concepts.

So I get this message on my answering machine requesting I call my website host, TODAY, or my site will be removed.

That gets a man’s attention. Since there’s another article due soon about the site, I did not want to make everyone look like an utter idiot. And I had an idea what the problem might be. Bandwidth again. Like I say, I don’t check my logs; I like to think there’s about two dozen of us here at the Bleat, but I’d hate to have that confirmed. Nevermind that I thought I had the problem whipped by squeezing the graphics down to the lowest possible level and removing Interior Desecrators; one Yahoo pick of the week entry, as I had last week with the Motel site, and I’m in trouble.

I did not know how much trouble until I called the fellow back. Let’s just say it wasn’t too convivial. I felt as if I was getting a call from a collection agency. The account rep began by saying that they’d received numerous reports on my site for bandwidth abuse - and I stopped him right there, saying I understood that I had overages, but abuse was perhaps not the right word. Oh but it was. I was abusing the other people who were on the server, and whose needs were crippled by my insatiable demand for bandwidth. Not knowing if the other sites had been crippled, I really had no argument. I mean, I contracted for 10 GB a month. I’m moving 65. I am at fault.

The tone of the conversation pissed me off - which of course it would, since I had no leg to stand on, and would take solace in saying “but he’s being mean!” In a way it was amusing: I had to upgrade, NOW, or The Boss would order my site yanked. I had to give the sales rep something to take to The Boss. As I said, just like a collection agency. Trouble is, 30 GB a month costs six grand a year. I love this site, but not $12,000 worth of love. What to do?

I paid up. Thanks to everyone who’s chipped in the Amazon box down there, because it allll went swirling into the maw of commerce this afternoon. I didn’t buy the huge expensive contract - I just bought a month’s worth of bandwidth so I’ll have the time to move the site somewhere else. God knows where. I know I complained about this last year, and received lots of good suggestions; they’re in a subfolder in the email program somewhere. I can only answer about 65% of my mail (this is the great shame of my life, and I can only apologize to those who haven’t gotten a proper reply; I suck.) and I may have skated over a good offer or two. We’ll see.

Twelve thousand dollars to pay for the traffic! Good Lord, is everyone visiting every page every day?

Well, it won’t go down to the pitiful shell like before. I’ve been broadcasting from home since 1996, and this is just too much fun to stop. Ever.


Musharraf don’ like it!
NUKE the Kashmir!
NUKE the Kashmir!
Musharraf don’ like it!

Sorry; that just came to me while watching a Simpsons episode that ended with “Rock the Casbah.” (And there’s a prescient song for you, in a not all that prescient sort of way, but it’s rock and roll; what do you expect? Second only to Nostradamus’ bad track record are Zager and Evans, who also had a bad record period.)

Today’s highlight: finding halogen bulbs for the lights under the counter. There are 12 bulbs. Eight had burned out. They had been winking out one at a time over the last week like stars at the edge of the universe, although without the attendant gravitational vortex, of course. Good thing; you’d hate to see the spatula enter the event horizon of a recessed bulb and just hang there, unusable, for millions of years.

Off to Home Depot with Gnat. I showed the clerk which bulb I wanted. He said “that’s a GS8,” and led me to the proper aisle. I put 15 bulbs in the basket. He was impressed - and he wouldn’t let me go. Kept wantin’ to chat about bulbs. Yes, bulb talk. Fella needs a good spell a’ bulb talk. Chew the ol’ filament, as we say. He was the antithesis of all Home Depot employees, who are constantly besieged by customers wanting to know where they keep the elbowed fuse-grout or the jute wrench or the female widget sexer. It struck me today that the shelves must be stocked by plainclothed agents - half the customers are actually employees. If they wore the apron they’d be tackled. Look closely - the guys taking things off the shelf verry slowwly are actually put things on the shelf. It’s like Moonwalking. It only looks like they’re going backwards.

That was my day.

That, and putting in eight bulbs. Had to unscrew the covers and insert the tiny little plugs - like spider legs with rigor mortis - into the weentsy plug-holes. I had to use a paper towel to handle the bulbs, since you’re NOT SUPPOSED TO TOUCH halogen lights. If you do, their mother will reject them, I guess. (I know, I know, the oils on your fingers cause uneven expansion of the glass.) So that was my day.

God, it was long. So very long. Wife handed off Gnat at 7:50 AM and returned eleven hours later; in all that time Gnat slept but 50 minutes, and consequently was a cranky staggering goat for the last two hours. I tried to put her down, in the baby sense, not the sick-animal sense, but she shrieked as if her crib was strewn with hat pins and I swear I got all of those out. But in those eleven hours, two amazing moments: her first two sentences.

I think. She was on her back on the changing table, and I was dealing with - well, let’s just call it a really big Al-Riyahd. That’s my new term for hindquarter effluent: Al-Riyahd. Honey? Check her diapers, I think she took a big Saudi editorial. (I’d call it a Rall, but I reserve that term for Jasper Dog. Goin’ to take Jasper out - he hasn’t ralled all day.) I was reminded of an article we read early in Gnat’s babyhood, way back when I believed I could learn baby-raising from books; the article cautioned against making faces when you unfurl the Huggies, lest the child learn to associate to make negative connections to their offal, which would leak into their general self-interest.

What a load of chomsky. Poll any successful happy person as to the secret of their success, and Zero Percent will chalk up their sunny mood to a happy relationship with digestive by-products. Why, I look forward to it! It’s like making a friend all over again, twice a day.

Diaper changing is just an odd thing to do, that’s all. You have a line of patter, a breezy demeanor, a moment of horror, a sense of relief as you remember the early days when the stuff seemed to shoot out the cuffs twice an hour -

"These are my toes," Gnat said.

I stopped, stunned. She had her feet in her hands. She had said exactly what I thought she said. Seventeen and a half months. Not bad.

Two hours later, she went to the fridge, put her sticky little hands all over the surface Daddy had just washed, just like Daddy had done the floors, had peeled up the tufts of dog hair that adhered to the juice, had Old Englished the woodwork, 409d the counters, Windexed the windows and Clorox Wiped the high chair, all of which would be covered with a film of juice and milk within the next 24 hours, and she said:

"I want num."

Num being food. It’s delightful to see communication forming up like this. It’s still cute when she says No in that little voice. And it’s extra nifty that she’s in a Daddy phase now, and frequently will stop what she’s doing to toddle over, say “Daddy!” and give me a kiss. That one moment erases a week’s worth of Saud, right there.

Speaking of which: no one has noted, as far as I can tell, that Saudi Arabia is the only country named after the people who run the joint. It’s like living in the United States of Bush, or Bourbonistan, or Windsorania. How very damned odd, and how utterly typical.

Bandwidth update: thanks for all the suggestions, folks, if I haven’t thanked you personally. (Due to heavy Gnat-duties today, I’ve been running at 35% response-to-mail, alas.) It’s a little depressing, though, to wade through the details on various sites and see that it’s still going to require a huge amount of money to move 65 GB a month. The investigation continues.

And thanks, thanks, to everyone who’s hit the tip jar. Every penny will go into the site, and by that I do not mean Maker’s Mark bourbon to see me through late-night scanning & resizing sessions. It’s all automatically deposited into my business bank account, and when I finally write the check to someone it’ll be with great gratitude to everyone who helped. I know it’s unseemly to rattle the cup and make sad faces, but, well: it’s this or a pledge drive.

Next: T-shirts. I'm serious. ANYTHING but banner ads.


Dave Barry, I have learned, is going to Grand Forks North Dakota next week, and I am furious he did not ask me for advice on my native land. On the off chance he is reading this, some pointers:

1. Always greet the menfolk by kicking them hard in the groin; this is called "waking the lads" and is a sign of respect

2. Do not turn down the native dish of jellied scrod; being offered this delicacy is a sign of respect. The only other thing you need to know is that in our culture, you turn your head to the left to throw up

3. Remember that Grand Forks' downtown burned DURING A FLOOD, which was the only time in human history a city resembled the sensation of peeing while you have syphillis

4. The People's Army for the Realignment of the Dakotas into West and East Dakotas is mostly pacified, but expect delays when they set up a roadblock and exact tribute. Being North Dakotans, they will accept crude photocopies of money, or checks made out to "Mr. Void"

There's more, but let him figure it out. Hmph.

Wow: a plane is going overhead, a prop plane, and it sounds exactly like the low pedal point that opens “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” It would be torture to be on that flight and hear that note for two hours; at some point you’d just have to stand up and shout DUM DUUUUM and then do some air-kettledrumming.

Well, I would, anyway. Of course nowadays that would result in everyone throwing everything at you, and I wouldn’t want that. One Clancy novel can kill a man if it strikes you in the temple.

Gnat has a sense of humor - not unusual for her age, I suppose. Like many kids she takes great pleasure in absurdity. When I got up on the counters to change some light bulbs in the cupboards, I thought she would fall over from sheer mirth. But today I was asking her questions, and each one got that cute little Nyo in response. Do you want some melon? Nyo. Do you want some Cheerios? Nyo. Do you want to take a nap? Nyo. Do you want to take a bath? Nyo. Look here, I said, automatic gainsaying of whatever I propose is not an argument! Nyo. (Our first Monty Python bit: how special.) I decided to try a nonsense question just to see if she was just saying Nyo for the hell of it. “Do you want to go to the moon?”

She considered it for a second, then burst out laughing. She knows what the moon is - it’s that sliver, or ball, or pregnant crescent, outside of various windows. The idea of going there was just ridiculous.

Won’t she be surprised when I show her the pictures of Neil Armstrong.

Reminds me of the time I interviewed Buzz Aldrin, and had recently heard that controvesy over Neil Armstrong’s possible mangling of the one-small-step line; I asked Buzz about it.

Buzz, it seemed, had been asked before, and Buzz got pissed; I felt horrible. I angered an astronaut! You can go to jail for that! I apologized and groveled and blushed and opened my belly with a letter opener, etc.

Speaking of Armstrong: it’s odd how he vanished from public life. He’s the J. D. Salinger of astronauts, although I hope without the monomanical dietary habits and wide-eyed acolyte houris. Probably shacking up with Joyce Maynard as we speak. Maybe he went back to the moon, and didn’t tell anyone. Kinda liked the place; quiet. A man could retire there. Has a little Mare-side shack, and every year NASA shoots a few tons of food and O2 up there. Least they can do.

I was watching “The Wrecking Crew” last night - think Austin Powers without the humor. And it’s supposed to be a comedy. (They made so many spy-spoofs back then they may actually outnumber the actual spy movies.) “The Wrecking Crew” was a Matt Helm movie, and as a small boy I thought they were cool, but not as cool as Flint, and certainly not as cool as Bond. (That was the Order of Things: Bond, Flint, Helm.) Now I can see the movies for what they are, i.e., crap. I grew up in a time when Oriental characters in a movie were invariably introduced by tinka-tinka-tink-tink music; makes you wonder if Japanese movies always introduced America characters with an E7 chord on a Strat (with a little whammy bar.) (Note: on Rolie Polie Olie, the most brilliant children’s show ever made, period, the Elvis-like Uncle Giz always gets a Dick-Dale surf music intro, which is another reason to love it.) The movie had jarringly violent moments, like the machine-gun death of Elke Sommers, complete with Bonnie & Clyde twitching. The entire enterprise centers around Dean Martin, who looks about sixty and sounds drunk all the time - even when he’s dubbing his dialogue. It’s just horrible. At the end when he starts pawing the requisite ingenue, you can just feel her desperate attempt to think of Tom Jones.

The female co-star was Sharon Tate, and that made it creepier. She was the only person in the movie who seemed to be having fun, and you could tell she would have had a marvellous career if those ambulatory sacks of filth hadn’t stabbed her to death. And this made me think of that horrid bitch Bernadette Dorhn exhulting - praising! the murder as a blow against the Establishment, Man. And of course she has a job as a college professor now, as does her husband Bill Ayers - the guy whose recent memoir celebrates the day he bombed the Pentagon.

We’re always told what a repressive country this is, but if America had been one tenth as bad as Dorhn and Ayers thought it was, they’d be bones in a Virginia forest by now.

Which reminds me. I got a screed idea today while reading a couple of columnists. One was Charlotte Raven of some UK paper, writing about the kid who smacked his plane into the tower; she blames American culture, of course. The other was a guy in the SF paper, who wrote this bizarre rant about the supposed return to normalcy. He’s angry we’re not angry about the war, and angry we’re pleased with things so far. What characterized both was a corrosive sense of misery and unhappiness - it’s the same tone I find by the gallon in Rall’s dreadful nonsense, in Salter’s monotonal plaints, in so many contrarian columnists. Apparently there is a certain point at which your intellect and sensitivity are so advanced that you have nothing but bitter contempt for the world. That’s fine when you’re 21 and you’re still infuriated by the inability of mankind to perfect itself by next Tuesday, but in adults it just sounds like an adolescent hissy fit.

We’ll see if the notion blossoms into screedishness.

Working on the T-shirts; Cafepress.com will handle all the work. I think you’ll like them. And now I am going to finish the T-shirts, do a little video editing, kill some Covenant forces in Halo, and watch the Ric Burns documentary on New York. A well-balanced menu of mayhem and remembrance. Have a good weekend.

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