Magnificent storm exploding overhead right now; you expect huge pieces of sky to land on the lawn and detonate like chunks of old masonry. Sometimes the entire sky ignites; sometimes it’s the mad scratch of bright white light, and then it’s a bolt from Vulcan himself thrown to the earth with such terrible force you can imagine a jagged white spear a mile high embedded in a lawn, quivering for a second before it blows the bark from the tree and leaves dogs deaf for ten miles around. I love spring. I love spring storms.

After a cold week and a tepid weekend, it heated up fast Sunday afternoon. I was doing a construction project, and changed to shorts. When you live in this part of the country, you don’t spend a lot of time looking at your bare legs, so spring brings an annual reaquaintance with your scars. Hello, childhood gash that required seventeen stitches! That was an amusing day - I had climbed up on a basement sink not realizing it was held to the wall by two old brackets; down it went. Down I went on the shattered porcelain, slicing a leg a half-inch from an artery. Blood everywhere. I called an ambulance, then called a friend to do my paper route; I was applying pressure with one hand and making the map of the route with the other. I think I left a note for mom, too. I know that when she got home and found blood up the stairs, down the halls, pooled in the kitchen where I wrote the map - well, there are only two explanations. One, my son has been murdered. Two, someone dragged a freshly-slaughted calf around the house. Please let there be a freshly-slaughted calf in the bathroom. Please.

It’s odd what you ask for in times like those.

Hello, small ten-peso sized injury suffered in Mexico when a wave picked me up and drove me into a coral reef! Did I bleed? Sharks came from Brazil. Hello, strange indentation in shin identical to the little depressions alien abductees believe are the points of insertion for their implants.

Every scar tells a story, as the cliche has it. Perhaps that’s why scar tissue does such a half-assed job of repairing the breach - it keeps you from forgetting. (Like all lousy contractors, scar tissue has a perfectly good explanation.) After a while your body has enough of these marks that you can read it the way you read a house - that subtle change in stucco indicates an addition, those holes in the wall show where they blew in some insulation. And so it is with our bodies. This rectangular patch on my buttock, for example, is where the coal used to go.

As for the project, well, it reminded me that I am not a large man. I am not short enough that you’d expect me to emerge from a red curtain speaking backwards, or issue a proclaimation on behalf of the Lollypop Guild, but let’s just say that most people talk down to me. This has its disadvantages, but today I learned something nice about being HO scaled. Today I put together Gnat’s new playhouse. The illustrations show a father leaning in the window to tighten the bolts from outside.

I was able to do it all from inside the house. And I could leave by the door, too.

Good for me. There was something about sitting in the little plastic hut that made me see if from her perspective. The house is sitting in the back of the yard three feet from a fence, below a tree and a powerline, on a hard surface of bricks. Let me quote from the installation manual: “Position house at least 6’ from a fence, and do not put below tree branches, powerlines, or on a hard surface.” Bah. We’ll be fine. If she’s playing out back and winds in excess of 100 MPH suddenly whip up, I think I’ll have time to get her before oaks topple and downed sparking lines snap through the windows like hungry eyeless snakes. (As for the hard surface, I put down a doormat.) Besides, this was the only place the house could go. The previous owners had one in the same spot - I saw it when I first toured Jasperwood . There’s a little stone path that goes up to the brick apron, and two small shrubs that flank the door. Very cute.

My wife did not want a plastic house, but I told her that the chances of me building a wooden one were slightly better than the chances of Jasper wandering over to the site and barfing up sufficient wood and nails to build it. (And then squatting to produce the tools.) She agreed, as long as it wasn’t Pink. Thursday I found one at Toys r Us, and Gnat took to it right away. Haus! Haus! She was fascinated by the little domiciles, and inspected each one with grave fascination. So I was keen to get it done today before she came back from a trip to the park with her Mom.

And I did. Eyes wide. Haus! Haus! She tottered over, opened the door, picked up the little play phone on the wall and immediately had a conversation with whatever demonic familiar to whom she talks - all baby babble interspersed with Haus. She was beside herself with delight, and to my amazement - she’s only 21 months old, after all - she said Tank eu daddee, she said gravely. Tank eu haus.

I wonder if she’ll dream of it tonight.

I wonder what she dreams.

Once a year I suffer the font equivalent of a pole switch, and decide that I do like sans serif after all, or serif. If this madness is taken to the extreme like last time, I will change every page on this site. And there are a lot of pages. I do this to give the site a consistent look, but also to upgrade, check dead links, etc. Just to start the miserable process rolling I redid the Matchbook site, which I’d never really liked.

It’s not that much work. The redesign of this page, for example, took 45 minutes. Redoing all the matchbook pages took another 45. I almost do it without thinking; it’s my version of knitting. Of course, this might look like crap if you don’t have Trebuchet installed on your machines, but most PCs and Macs from 2000 on have it, and if they don’t they should: it’s a nice clean font.

So: enjoy the new Matchbook, as measly an offering as ever, and the new Flotsam - a four-page look at Laxative Imps!

Tomorrow: Best. Superhero. Movie. Ever.
You can tell a good deal about a movie’s prospects by the audience’s reaction to its trailers. Men in Black 2: it will do ten bazillion dollars on day one; goodwill and anticipation fizzed off the audience like a swarm of effervescent bubbles. The next trailer was for the third Austin Powers movie, and you could feel the air leave the auditorium as if sucked out by huge jet turbines. No one wants to see Fat Bastard as a sumo wrestler. No one laughed at Dr. Evil. No one laughed when Austin said “yeah, baby,” because everyone was wearily resigned to him doing exactly that. A gigantic silent collective shrug: yeah, whatever. The next preview was for a Jerry Bruckheimer crapfest starring Chris Rock as a CIA agent - oh yes, sure. And Adam Sandler is his NSA nemesis, and Dennis Miller his triple-crossing handler. Again, a shrug. Everyone in the room had already seen this movie six or seven times before - and everyone knew it couldn’t be as good as the one we were here to see.

Roll credits. Every felt an audience lean into a movie? It’s as if they’re feeding off the photons bouncing off the wall, straining to take them all in. I felt the same sensation at the beginning of the Phantom Menace, and I could also feel this collective UH OH assemble in the room as soon as people realized that the words were disappearing into the stars and they didn’t quite know what was going on. Trade federation? Taxation dispute? What the hell is this?

Not this time. I’m talking about Spider-Man, of course. On a scale of 1 - 10, I’d give it a 147. It’s like this: if you like movies, and you love Spider-Man in that geeky 12-year-old way, then you will adore this movie. You will laugh and you will cry. If you like movies, and you have no opinion about Spider-Man, you will enjoy this movie, because it’s brisk, cheerful, scary when needed and sweet whenever possible. It’s smart and self-effacing and deserves every dollar it’s getting.

If, however, you like movies and Spider-Man with such passion that no cinematic manifestation can ever top the movies you’ve already constructed in your mind, you will find a reason to dislike it to show how cool you are. You would have called Citizen Kane “crap” because there weren’t any lightsaber duels or references to the hallowed genre of Hong Kong publishing magnate movies. You will find the CGI “unconvincing,” and make mental notes to buy the DVD and do a frame-by-frame so you can point out the errors. You will complain that Aunt May was fat, when she should have been a stick in a smock. For that matter, the choice of the villain was lame, because everyone knows that (fill in the blank with your villain of choice) rocks, so the director obviously doesn’t know anything. You will hate the organic webshooters, because you hated them before - it was a point of pride, a cause celebre, a reason to stay up until midnight IMing your friends about how this was going to SUCK - and even though you saw right away how well this worked, well, no way you will ever admit you were wrong. Because you love movies too much to ever enjoy them.

You will end up not in hell but purgatory, where all the pointlessly clever cynics go, and you will watch Police Academy movies forever and ever, ‘nuff said.

I have waited 32 years for this movie. That’s a long time to assemble expectations. The movie met every one of them. Yes, , it’s a comic-book movie about comic-book characters who fly around in the sky, cackling and cursing and whooping it up. I’m not saying it’s Shakespeare. But unlike the shiny noisy sturm-and-dung of the Batman movies, unlike the heartfelt & hokey first Superman movie and the dreck that followed, and unlike the ghastly bloodletting of the Blade movies (did like the first one, but still, not the most ennobling material) or the let’s-do-downers-and-listen-to-Morrisey gothness of the Crow flicks - unlike the lesser superhero movies, in other words, this a human story, a movie that takes place on the rooftops and still feels down to earth. If I said anymore I’d really embarrass myself, so I won’t.

No, I will. The movie was done before 9/11, so it would be stupid to read it otherwise, to look for undercurrents in the zeitgeist that would surface after the attacks. But. I don’t think we’re in the mood for Dark Tortured Heroes anymore. Batman had, shall we say, issues. He tended his childhood trauma like a garden of black roses. Yes, he lost his parents through no fault of his own, but you could say the same about the 1500 orphans created by the attack on the WTC. Spider-Man lost his father figure through an act of arrogance (and it’s preceded by an argument that was short and raw and all too real.) He’s not out to punish. He’s just a slightly sarcastic smart kid from Queens who feels obligated to do good and takes exuberant joy in doing it. The rest of the world probably thinks Americans view ourselves as Superman, square-jawed guys with bulletproof hair, more likely to outrun a slug than ask ourselves why that shot was fired in anger. Poor, simplistic SuperAmericans.

But we probably think we’re more like Spidey.

Now, let me dig a deeper hole: this movie is more important, in the long run, than any other movie, novel, artwork or musical composition that will be produced in 2002. I’m not saying it has a higher degree of artistic accomplishment - it is, after all, a comic-book story splashed on a wall. But novels have little cultural impact these days. Even the most celebrated novels are discussed more than they’re actually read. Deeper, smarter, wiser movies will be released, but they will have small audiences of people who were already inclined to believe whatever point the movie made. Art - be it sculpture or painting - is culturally irrelevant, gazing into the Mobius strip embedded in its navel. Every art form has its moment when it sums up a culture, or an aspect of that culture, be it “J’Accuse” or Guernica or the Rite of Spring. But all these forms have been shouldered off to the wings by movies, because only movies have the killer combination of mass distribution, mass pre-publicity, a huge target audience, and the trebled appeal of story plus music plus acting plus visual effects on a scale unachievable in scope and size in any other medium.

In 30, 40 years, they’ll look back at the culture of 2002 just as we look back at the movies of WW2. Anyone look at the painting or novels of the 40s to discover the mood of wartime America? No. It’s the movies. The all-time WW2 movie, in retrospect, is “Casablanca,” because it sums up who we wanted to be. Cynical and idealistic. Selfish and altruistic. Lovable and lovelorn. Selfish entrepreneur and fighter for the greater good. We might have been Rick; we might have been Sam; in our weaker moments we knew we were capable of being Renauld; we really didn’t want to be Victor Lazlo, as much as we might have admired him, but we were damn sure we would never be Strassner. In the end, when it counted, we shot the Nazi, let the girl go, and found weary, bemused comfort in the camaraderie that would sustain us in the battle ahead.

Look, if you can read all that into a Hollywood studio assembly-line product like Casablanca - my favorite movie, as cliched as that sounds - then we ought to be able to find some cultural resonances in Spider-Man. And we can. All I’m saying is this: when historians sift through the pop-culture of America looking for hints and clues, they will notice that a character born in Vietnam-era 1963 reached a mass appeal in 2002, shortly before the Second Iraq War, and they will pay particular attention to the recurring phrase:

With great power comes great responsibility.

Go ahead; argue this is a sign of Western self-delusion, or a statement of solemn principles - that’s not my point. I’m just saying that that simple homily means something about the culture from which it came. Not: with great power comes great opportunity for burying your foes beneath the spiked wheels of your juggernaut! or with great power comes booty like you would - not - believe! Of course, the next question is, responsibility to do what? And there the arguments start. The EUians would mean we have a responsibility to sign Kyoto and join the ICC; others would insist we have a responsibility to reduce global income inequality, or smash states that are on a crash course to develop weapons of mass destruction. You could say that Spider-Man’s credo is the central dilemma of a unipolar world. But that would be silly.

Accurate, but silly.

If people can get PhDs today on the diaries of 18th century plantation wives (Matriarchs and Mansions: privilege and sexual politics in a slave-based culture) then they certainly can get a doctoral degree in 2102 dissecting a culture’s approach to the relation between power and responsibility, and why that concept popped up in 2002. They’ll probably miss the point, because the point is simple: do good, because that’s what good people do.

We’re never as good as our myths, but surely it says something that our myths are good.

The BO figures on Saturday night were $41 million. Woody Allen’s latest, in which he is pursued romantically by women so young they have not yet established a tampon brand preference, pulled in $661,000. There’s hope.

One other note: the score sucked. Danny Elfman has written another graceless score that sounds like someone jammed tubas up the butts of a dozen elephants and put them on StairMasters. Enough.

One other note: if you know New York, the locations are priceless: the Daily Bugle is the friggin’ FLATIRON building; Times Square has a gigantic cross between City Hall and the New York Central tower, and Spidey does some of his first frantic webslinging at Lex and 47. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the word SMITH in green letters on the side of a building: it’s was the Roger Smith, the hotel where I stayed for many years. I always look up when I’m in New York; you have to. That’s the point. Next time I’m at that corner, about to go in to the Bunny Deli for an overpriced six-pack, I’ll remember that scene, and grin. If only they’d shot the scene looking up Lex! Spidey, swinging from the towers of the Waldorf-Astoria, the archetypical Gotham skyscraper. I got your Moderne sensibility right here, Batboy.

One final note: It wasn’t made for guys like me, but it was made with guys like me in mind. When Peter Parker meets the newspaper editor’s secretary Betty, and he introduces himself, she doesn’t say “Betty Brandt.” The director knows we know. (And if we don’t, it doesn’t matter.) When Mary Jane calls Peter “Tiger” as she walks away, it’s one line from a comic three decades ago, and even if you forgot it you remember it all right away.

One final note: did I mention how much I loved this movie?
It’s either Tupperware or chaos. Either you commit to one storage standard, or your cupboard will be a jumble of competing designs, none of which get along with each other. If you don’t really worry about the disorder in your storage cupboard - i.e., you are a normal human being with a sense of priorities - then this doesn’t bother you. But if you spend a lot of time matching containers and lids for the 47 unfinished portions of food you prepared for your toddler, this weighs heavy on your heart. Because:

1. Aside from a few snazzy Tupperware lines, most storage containers are ugly. They’re transparent and they’re round. That’s it. For variation, you have gray lids. After a few months of use they cloud up inside, so you can’t tell if the contents are very old chicken or very new broccoli. (To paraphrase Oscar Madison.)

2. Most containers are bought in lots of three or four, and are added to old sets of three or four which have been reduced by attrition to one or two. After ten years any household has a dozen survivors from different platoons, none of whom speak the same language.

3. There will always be a container from a grocery store deli-counter purchase of potato salad, saved by your wife because it was too useful to throw out. My mother saved plastic tubs from Sue-Bee Honey, and used them as containers for notions, bobbins, rubber bands, etc. But the Sue-Bee Honey Tub supply outstripped the number of possible uses, and hence we always had a ten year supply on hand. If the Sue-Bee Army ever came through and demanded tribute, we were ready.

4. Attempts to fix the mess above will be met with certain failure, because some of the containers will not just be good, but perfectly good, and there is never any sense in throwing out a perfectly good container.

That’s why my kitchen needs me. The man on the horse. Smasher of domestic expectations. I threw all the containers out save two. Filled a trash bag with useless containers, and no I didn’t give them to charity: they were etched with scars and flecked with dreck that had bonded to the plastic molecules themselves. Out! Begone!

Now what?

Target, of course. Lo: Philip Starck has lent his name (meaning, cashed his paycheck) to a line of storage containers in the original 50s Tupperware tints. And they nest! Joy! AND they’re opaque, so the miserable ossified glop within won’t bother the eye when you open the fridge. Why, I’ll have one of those designer fridges you see in magazines that contain nothing but softly glowing backlit containers. Maybe I can rig up some halogen spots that illuminate the containers, but then I'll have to insist that the containers be placed on their mark for maximum effect . . . put down some Xs on the shelf to indicate where the containers should, no, must go . . . No. My effort to reserve the second shelf as a Beverage Preserve is mocked daily by the placement of yogurt and half-eaten dishes of pears. As much as one would like to block out the fridge like a theater production, you're only asking for misery.

I bought two sets for daily use and one for a backup. (They’re cheap.) My wife was very pleased. This stuff doesn’t even scare her anymore.

As mentioned elsewhere, this neatness comes from three sources:

1. Love of Jasperwood. I clean because I love this place; every other day Gnat and I dust, walking around with cloths, polishing and getting the sloughed-off skin cells and dead mites from the slats of the furniture. It's my way of atoning for my bachelor life, when I lived in such filth that my laundry basket became sentient once or twice a year and started to drag itself towards the door.

2. Daughter-induced desire for order. Children create messes. That’s the job description. By keeping everything else orderly, kid-messes do not overwhelm. This entire house is never more than 10 minutes from presentable, and I like it that way. My wife likes it that way. If I didn’t walk around wearing a white glove, feeling along the windowsills and saying once again, my failure brings shame to my family she’d be happier, but that’s a small point.

3. Illusion of control. There are days like today when I wake, fire up the iBook and hit the net, and discover that Pim was shot dead and Norwegian union goons are stopping produce trucks looking for Jewish produce, so they can keep the trucks from proceeding. And I wonder: which century am I in? And then I decide to polish the countertops, because it works off steam. I like these cupboards too much to put my fist through them.

In yesterday’s Spidey orgy I neglected to mention another movie I saw, and loved. And I hesitate to say which, since it is loved and loathed in equal numbers, it seems; Mulholland Drive. I am a Lynch fan, but not a slavish one - I lost in interest in Lost Highway after 10 minutes, for example. I hated Fire Walk With Me at first, and then I made myself watch it again and found that I liked it, a lot. So sue me. I can see why people hate his stuff - what strikes the fan as Lynchian characterization strikes others as really bad acting, and what the fan calls his signature style others term as inability to direct and edit. I see their point. But every Lynch movie has an extraordinary performance or two, and that’s not because the actor or actress has confounded the director’s intentions. Some people in Lynch movies act like human beings; others act like some strange species that has almost perfected its impersonation of human beings, but hasn’t gotten the details down pat yet. They hold their smiles too long. They speak like people in movies speak. They trot out dusty dead vernacular like it’s the slang of the moment. And it’s usually funny at first, until the casual viewer decides it’s just stupid, and the fan thinks ah, how very Lynchian.

Mulholland Drive is full of these moments, and if you’re not buying the tone, it’s a really, really stupid movie full of stupid and incomprehensible performances.

I loved it. And not just because they served an espresso to a stolid glowering heap of Euroflesh in a cup from our china pattern. (The actor was Angelo Badalamenti, who wrote the film’s score as well as every other Lynch score of note.) And not because Lynch cut an entire scene to one of the coolest songs ever recorded, “The Beast” by Milt Buckner. I loved it because when he presents a small-town Canadian beauty queen who says “gosh!” and out-perks Sandra Dee, it’s not because he’s presenting this character ironically, or for our sophisticated bemusement, but because he believes that people like her still exist. Or that they should, anyway.

Here’s what confounds many: the movie introduces all these characters and plots, and then 3/4s of the way through it appears to come completely unhinged; it literally goes down the rabbit hole, and at the end you’re not completely certain what happened. It helps, perhaps, to know the lineage of the movie. It’s a TV pilot. One of the nets, realizing it had run out of ideas, commissioned Lynch to do a pilot. He came up with Mulholland Drive, which had all the basics for a year of good TV: a woman with amnesia' mysterious movie backers pushing the career of a woman for no known reason; a harried director who, on the worst day of his life, is threatened by a financier in chaps and an outsized Stetson; the obligatory midget in a curtained airtight room issuing cryptic commands; an ingenue hoping for a big break; and a man who sees in dreams the filthy embodiment of evil behind a Denny’s in Hollywood. If you liked Twin Peaks, you’d have loved Mulholland Drive. And I realize I am, by now, speaking to an audience of ten.

The executives nixed it. Lynch took the pilot and made it into a movie, which is why the last 30 minutes seem so surreal. He couldn’t wrap up all the plot lines, so he exploded the entire setup. If you’ve heard that people wonder “what the hell was that?” after watching the movie, it’s not because it made no sense - it’s because you walk away with five different explanations, and they’re all plausible.

I don’t like weird experimental movies that Challenge Our Notions of Art, because they’re usually gruesomely boring and so proud of their shocking shockingness, their shocking ability to shock our shockable sensibilities. I eat the baby while wearing a mask! You are horrified, no? Whatever. This one actually deserves to sit on the shelf next to Blue Velvet. It stayed with me all the next day, and when I sat down to watch TV the next night I watched it again.

But please. Do not take my word for it.
Thursday. Screedyness en route. Blame the weather. Rain, rain go away. Come again some other day, preferably the one where I have perfected my Jet Stream Deflector Ray, and with the help of my trusted assistant Race Bannon, I should be able to move this air mass back into Canada - what’s that? Someone at the door? Hadji! Find Jonny! Race, pass out the pistols. Must - aim - ray - correctly - not - much - spring - left - to - save

Sorry, I’m babbling. By this point in the week I’m just writing on autopilot, really - I write columns on Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday in addition to Bleats, and I also did two other pieces for the paper, and there’s another column to write on Friday. I’m not complaining - I like what I do, and it’s not as if I’ve been breaking rocks in the broiling sun. Or the broasting sun, to use a peculiar word that only seems to apply to chicken. Wednesdays are always the hardest, though - I sit down at the machinery and think man, I’m tired of me; they must be sick of me too. Then you find the groove and you’re off.

Anyway, I’m tired, sick of this dreary dank May, and completely cheesed off to boot; got a letter tonight from someone who asked how I could possibly support Israel in light of the UN condemnation - which is a bit like asking how I can criticize pro wrestling? It gets such excellent ratings! Okay, here we go. Those disinclined to suffer a screed have my apologies. I’ll be calm tomorrow. I’m just not calm tonight.
The Palestinian claims of a massacre at Jenin were counterproductive. In the long run, it really doesn’t pay to inflate your losses. You become the Boy Who Cried War-Crimes. If every action is a massacre, an atrocity, a sin against civilization, and the world “community” responds to every military feint as though you’d Groznied the joint to dust and dental fragments, then eventually your adversary has no incentive to exercise restraint. I’m not saying Israel will, or should, do a Dresden on the Gaza Strip. But if they will be hated and chastised no matter what they do, what holds them back from a truly ruthless extirpation of their enemy? Will the Norwegian unionists double their searches of produce trucks, looking for Jewish cabbages as well as carrots? Will international bodies pass condemning resolutions printed in really big red letters on heavier paper? Will the Vatican envoy stand on a ladder so he can hold Arafat’s hand even higher? Will demonstrators in Berlin strap six pieces of fake dynamite around their daughters’ waists instead of three?

Which brings us to the UN.

Point number one: clever webmasters fix it so you don’t have to type “www” to call up a site. “un.org” ought to work. Of course, it doesn’t.

Two: the homepage title for the UN is: “it’s your world.” Really. There is a link to read the page in Chinese. There is no link to read it in Tibetan. For those in Tibet, we paraphrase a Rat Pack quote: it’s the Party’s world. You’re just living in it.

Three: when I was a kid, the UN made me nervous, and I have no idea why. I didn’t grow up in a household where Dad stomped around muttering about the Masons and the One-Worlder Rockefellers. Perhaps I took my cues from movies, where the UN was only shown when things were Bad, and Tense, and the World Hung in the Balance. Whatever the reason, I've never been a UN fan - yet I've always regarded right-winger calls for US withdrawl of the UN as LaRouchey paranoia.

Four: over the years, I have come to believe that the UN is actually a beautiful thing. I’m serious. Oh, some people hate it, find it an anachronism, but I find it a pure and lovely example of an oft-discredited ideal.
I should mention I’m talking about the building. Which is why I believe it should be emptied of its liars and parasites and converted into condos.

Tonight, for grins, I decided to read the UN account of the latest condemnation of Israel. It’s a long turgid document of breathtaking mendacity. It begins with the South African delegate: “Israel had seemed to develop a culture of acting with impunity with regard to its relations with the United Nations.” Ingrates! Here we only pass 999 anti-Israel resolutions instead of 1000, and they repay us with a culture of acting with impunity. Let's hit the highlights:

Nasser Al-Kidwa, Observer for Palestine, said “Israeli forces had committed wilful killings of civilians and extrajudicial executions.  They had used civilians as human shields and carried out collective detention and imposed various forms of collective punishment, including the imposition of curfews for several days, among other things.  Then, the Jenin refugee camp -- one square kilometre in which 13,000 refugees were living -- was obliterated by bulldozers after helicopter gunships fired missiles at it.” 

If I can quote the WSJ Opinion Journal:

Maybe Al-Kidwa is confused by the metric system (heck, who isn't?), but more likely this is another lie. Aerial photos provided by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that the actual area of destruction is about 100 meters squared, or 10,000 square meters. A square kilometer--slightly bigger than the entire "refugee camp"--is a million square meters, so Al-Kidwa is overstating the destruction by a factor of 100.

But reread the statement - UN condemnation must be forthcoming because the IDF imposed a curfew in a battle zone. A special condemnation must be drawn up to insist that IDF tanks use Nerf treads, and the soldiers wear blaze orange. More quotes:

ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) “Israel, during the past two months, had persisted in its attempts to destroy the Palestinian Authority, by committing atrocious war crimes and laying siege to the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Christianity.”

Sudan - a nation where slavery flourishes, and Christians are put to death for not accepting Islam - is now deeply worried about the Church of the Nativity. I missed the part where Israel herded women and children into the nave and shot Zyklon gas charges through the windows. If there was a church of the Nativity in northern Sudan, it would have been bulldozed long ago, and if anyone was inside, well, that’s the way the eucharist crumbles.

I’d respect the UN more if the British delegate had risen from his chair, marched over, slapped Elfaith on the cheek with a white glove and said “my seconds will call on you, sir. Good day.”

But no. Everyone is quiet. Everyone waits their turn. Everyone respects the process.

YISHAN ZHANG (China) “The Chinese Government and people had always supported the Palestinian people. Chairman Arafat had always worked to safeguard the well-being of his people.” 

One hopes that members of the UN have an anti-bullshit translator mode that converts diplo-speak into truth; if so, their right earpiece would say: “The Chinese government is keen to sell as much munitions to the Arab states as possible, and is gratified that the member states give it a pass on Tibet in order to sell out the Jews. Wait until you see our Olympic facilities! You will all get box seats.”

There’s more. Yards and yards of it. Towards the end, before the vote, a statement by the Israeli delegate, who was allowed to speak without being pelted with fruit and rotten lettuce-heads:

“At the time when the Assembly was preparing to vote on the draft, a suicide attack just occurred in Israel in a youth club, killing 16 people and injuring at least 60. If the Assembly adopted the text, which said nothing about suicide attacks, the message to the Palestinians would be unequivocal.  He made a solemn appeal to the members of the Assembly not to adopt the text.  If adopted, it would be an offense to the memory of the Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism.”

Needless to say, the draft was approved.

In favour:  Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen.

Abstaining or Against: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tonga, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United states, Yugoslavia.

Which group do you wish to shape the future?

Which group do you want your children to grow up in?
At the moment my main Mac and iBook are communicating wirelessly, transferring data with blinding speed - and by “blinding” I mean that the conversation between the two has the snap and crackle of two 90-year-old men arguing whether the scrap of paper one found in his shirt pocket is a bus transfer or a coupon for a brand of noodles last made in 1954. And the argument is taking place via Morse Code. Why this works so slowly sometimes, I don’t know; it’s as if the very air between the two machines is as dense as wet wool, and each individual byte has to struggle through like someone swimming the Channel in the choppy seas of March. (And that person is one of those 90 year old men.)

Ah, well, the connection was just severed. Dandy. Timed out. You know, as much as I hate to say it, sometimes you miss the old floppy - except that the file I’m trying to sync is 47MB big, and that would be about 42 floppies. Sometimes you miss the old Superdisc, then -

Hey, wait a minute. I have a Superdisc unit downstairs somewhere. So I’ve a choice: spend ten minutes fishing it out of a box, which will also involve poking through six other boxes looking for the power adapter, then crossing my fingers and hoping it works without a driver, or I can try to connect again. . .

Okay, it’s just asked me which volumes I want to mount, which sounds like something a madam would say at a brothel full of plus-sized employees . . . ah. Well, this will take all night, which isn’t good. Let’s go downstairs and see if we can find the Superdisk drive.

(30 minutes later)

Didn’t find it.
I opened many boxes in my search, and found many CDs that are not currently in my iTunes MP3 list. Which reminded me: I really wanted the “Mulholland Drive” soundtrack. Let’s cut our losses for the evening, and go online and order it.

(Six minutes later)

Amazon informs me that I’ve already ordered it, and indeed I got it six weeks ago.


Back downstairs to the boxes. I can’t find it. Then I remember that I’d brought the Superdrive upstairs a month ago, and put it in the Closet of Peculiar Detritus, the quasi-museum / geek archive from which the Institute is drawn and my accomplishes, such as they are, are stored. I drag a box down from the shelf. Open it. There’s the Mulholland Drive soundtrack.

And there’s the Superdisc drive.

I am now living in a Drive-rich environment.

Needless to say, the Superdisc lacks a power cord.

Most of the time my wirelessness works perfectly. Most of the time it meets my needs. On deadline, it gives me the rusty rectal auger every time. Some days a man just needs physical media; some days a man recalls the moment when he bought his last laptop, and eschewed the CD-R drive. Won’t need that. Nosirree. We’re in the wireless paradigm now, ayup. Said man kicks self.

Said man recalls that wife was enamored of the iBook; she thought it was crisp and sensible and aesthetically correct, unlike the clunky old Sony PC I’d given her. A few weeks ago I asked her if she would like to have it as her home PC, and she said yes - and instantly, of course, realized that I was up to something. But what will you use? I explained how Apple had rolled out a new series of laptops, and the price of the smaller older books had dropped, and it was a tax deduction . . . she nodded and went back to typing, which I took as a yes.

That was several weeks ago. Had I acted right away, this evening’s two-hour contrusion wouldn’t have happened, and this pathetic bucket-brigade of bits would have been replaced by brisk inscription on a pure empty platter. If only I had bought the laptop yesterday.

The good news is that I bought it this afternoon. The stupid news is that it’s still in the box. I’ve been too busy forcing Tweedledee and Tweedledum into a mind meld that I haven’t had time to set it up.

Bought it at the Mall of America, with Gnat. She knows what the Apple store is, in her own way. Twenty one months old: when we enter she looks at the big logo in the window and says Appa, and then she looks at the items on display and says Pooter. Yes, yes, I know, every parent thinks their child is a Genius! but I’m starting to worry. Side note: she likes to color with crayons, as do all children, but the other day I looked at the coloring book I’d bought her, and discovered that she had, in every instance, colored inside the lines. It actually gave me a chill. Whoa. So today we’re on the floor, drawing. I draw a flower, a daisy on a stem. She makes a series of squiggles - and when she’s done I see that each is a circle with a perpendicular line. Hmm. So I draw a tulip, a linear flower with no circles. She draws up-and-down lines. Hmmm. So I draw a left-to-right line, and ask her if she can draw that.

She does. I do it again: left to right. Can you draw this? She does.

In the mall today she pointed up and said FIE. I looked up, and saw a banner on the second floor, advertising the Post Office’s new springtime stamps. FIE! I looked again: there was indeed a FIE, as she calls a butterfly, on the stamp.

Super vision too. God help me when she starts reading my mind. Naughty daddy! Naughty!

Anyway. I bought the laptop. While the lads installed the memory and the wireless card (yes, I can do it myself, but I lack the tiny screwdriver, and the last time I tried to open the iBook’s innards I snapped the delete key off. And no, they don’t carry replacements) we wandered around looking for Mother’s Day presents. We did not have the ceremonial cookie. We had . . . an Orange Julius.

In the age of the ubiquitous smoothie, this will sound a bit dated and dull, but I actually remember my first Orange Julius. It was in Chicago, in the summer of 1975; I was en route to Debate Camp at the University of Iowa. (Dork heaven: spending your high school summer at college.) I made a detour to see a friend in Chicago. He had long praised the virtues of Orange Julii, which of course were unknown to North Dakotans. I’ll never forget my first sip of that citric ambrosia. I’d never had anything that good. NEVER! Or so 17 year olds are wont to insist. Over the years I’ve had a dozen Juliuses, and each time I wonder: why don’t I drink more of these? This is really good.

So I asked for an extra cup, poured a jot for Gnat, and let her experience the wonder of a Julius.

Mo? She asked. Mo? Mo!

Daddy’s girl.

Okay, that’s all - I am reduced now to emailing the gigantic file to myself, which means no more internet for me tonight . . .

And in a way, I am deeply grateful. Long week. Much work. Need TV. Need “Enterprise” and a small cigar. You know what? I’m not even going to change the Bleat interface next week. The paying jobs have shouldered their way to the head of the queue, and I’d best give them their due. Have a merry weekend; see you Monday.