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Warning: today’s bleat contains adult language in AMAZING quantities, but it’s for a point. I think.

Random note #1: If the process of animation consists of a human being drawing the pictures and other human beings photographing them, would it not be accurate for all animation to include the words “Filmed before a Live Audience.” Just to confuse people.

Random note #2: The things you learn from Amazon. Saw this today:

Customers who bought titles by Rene Auberjonois also bought titles by these artists:

* Matthew Broderick
* John Williams
* Stephen Schwartz
* Urinetown

I never really wanted to see the musical “Urinetown,” perhaps because I feared that a successful run would encourage a sequel, and I really don’t want to see posters for “Pusburg” on taxis around town. To say nothing of the inevitable “Urinetown on Ice.”

It is a busy day - a four-column day, if you can believe such a thing. I had to finish one off this morning, then go to the office and write another. Then after supper, the Newhouse column. Now this. As you can imagine this requires a good deal of coffee and self-confidence, but at some point I get sick of spending the entire day in the assertive mode. I get sick of being professionally ON, of having to shovel opinions into the offal cart of daily journalism. I just want to relax. On the radio today I heard that the average American spends 29 hours a week in front of the TV, and for the first time in my life I dearly envied that person.

Although maybe not. Last night I watched the second episode of “The Fucking Wire,” on HBFuckingO, and it was just like the first episode: more fucking profuckingfanity than any fucking show I’ve ever seen. (Fuck.) I hate this. I really fucking do. It’s as if the producers and writers are so fucking worried I’ll think I’m watching broadfuckingcast TV, so they have to make everyone swear as fucking much as fucking possible. At one point I considered taking note of the fucking number of fucking fucks, which I could divide into my HBO bill, just to see how fucking much each fucking fuck fucking costs me. But it was too much fucking work.

The show - a cop drama set in fucking Baltimore - concerns a crime unit’s attempt to bring down a drug kingpin, and so far it’s all about interoffice politics. No one wants to investigate, no one wants the case, everyone’s mad at everyone else, everyone thinks it’s someone else’s job. Fuck. Of course, there is one dedicated cop who rises above it all. You pick which one it’s most likely to be:

1. The dumb fucking mook white boy cop
2. The politically connected white boy cop who’s so fucking stupid he keeps shooting his gun off indoors
3. The earnest and undumb decent-guy black partner of the dumb fucking mook
4. The big white cigar-smoking Irish cop with a gut hangin’ down to his fuckin’ knees, I swear
5. The grim, thorough, no-nonsense black lesbian

I’m not saying that these five archetypes don’t exist; of course they do. But they’re lazy cliches at this point. I mean, there’s nothing inherent in lesbianism that makes one a better policeperson. Or a lesser one. Brava for having one in the first place, I suppose. But I bristle when a show expects I’ll ascribe salutary characteristics to someone because of their sexuality; it’s as silly as automatically assuming negative characteristics. Of course she’ll get the bad guy - her dispositional embrace of the Sapphic delights ensures she means she also has deductive skills that put her boorish wife-beating colleagues to shame! It has nothing to do with the quality of one’s character. It reminded me of all the hoo-hah over “Basic Instinct.” As if there weren’t any ice-pick wielding bisexual novelists. As if!

Okay, now I’m just rambling, but you get the point. It’ll be a sign of progress when we don’t have LESBIAN characters or PAINFULLY WHITE characters but just characters. Individuals. Will I live to see the day? Doubtful.

If you think I’m overstating the case: one of the dumb cops, who’s worked with the Smart Grim Lesbian for years, apparently, asks her in the middle of a stake-out when she decided she doesn’t like men. Just in case we missed the point that SHE’S A LESBIAN IN A SEXIST POLICE DEPARTMENT.

Another cliché the show indulges: really good cops (like the oddly diffident hero) live in trash-strew apartments - no doubt because their marriage broke up when she just couldn’t take it anymore. She loved him, and he loved her, but she just couldn’t take it anymore, y’know? (Sob.)

I should have bailed after the opening sequence of the first episode; the hero was interviewing a local kid about the murder of another local kid, the improbably named Snot Boogie. Apparently Snot would always run off with the money at the end of the Friday craps game. After he’d done it 20 times, someone followed him and shot him. The cop asks why they let Snot Boogie play if he kept swiping the pot, and the youth acted surprised: “Y’ gotta let ‘im play. This is America.”

Clang. CLANG. Manhole-cover-dropped-on-battleship-deck CLANG. A clear case of a screenwriter confusing a John Cougar Mellancamp lyric with insight. By which I mean, of course, that wretched song “Pink Houses,” which attempted to simultaneously deride and celebrate ordinary Americans for wanting a house (pink) and an annual vacation in Mexico. “Ain’t that America, home of the free.” Damn right, you half-pint finger-popping pouty poseur, that IS America.


Okay, that’s all! Thanks! I’m better now. Cheerier tales tomorrow.

Remind me to get working on that links page. I owe too many people.

Remind me, should I ever discount the meanings of dreams, that last night I dreamed I was in a dark room, and a stranger walked up and handed me a big yellow balloon. I awoke with a bladder that felt like an overinflated basketball.

The phrase that pays this week is “Dirty Bomber,” and by now everyone knows what it means. I think it remarkable that the general reaction was a shiver - then a shrug. We’ve been expecting this, and just because they caught this one doesn’t mean it won’t happen. We might feel safe from this guy, but not from Dirty Bombing. It’s a watered-down version of Atrocity Fatigue which, according to Tal G., has affected Israel as well:

“Last week my wife T. went to see some Cuban music at the Israel Festival - she said it was pretty good. Thursday night we went to the final evening of jazz but found that it had been canceled due to the Megiddo bombing on Wednesday. Until the last year or so, the country would enter low-key mourning for about 24 hours if there was a serious terror attack- restaurants and plays would close, and the radio would play sad music. These days that's not possible of course, and the sad music generally lasts until the news reports from the scene are finished.”

There’s no comparison between us and them, of course - they key phrase in his remarks is “These days that’s not possible,” because of the number of attacks. But in both cases, the unthinkable becomes normalized to a certain degree. A headline in 1995 reading “Man Arrested for Plot to Set Off Nuclear Device in American City” would have caused a freak-out like you’d never seen for a few weeks. Now it’s tell me something I don’t know. We have a movie, “Sum of All Fears,” in which Baltimore is toastified by a stolen nuke, and nearly every review describes it as a coming-attractions preview for a film that’s still in production.

People adapt. It’s amazing what we accept. That might just be the problem. Getting used to the possibility is the first step towards accepting it when it happens. It might almost be a relief: finally. The other shoe. Then you realize you’re up against a millipede.

On the other hand, you can kill a millipede with a well-placed boot. And we have a great many boots.

So I’m having lunch with a friend, and he mentions he’d seen Dick Tracy on TV the other night. We talked about the art direction, Elfman’s lame score - the oompahitis that completely consumed the Spiderman score is on full display - and how the movie seems to promise the sort of big-myth hoohah of the first Batman movie, but never delivers. That day I get an email from a fellow who mentions “Dick Tracy” out of nowhere. That night “Dick Tracy” is on HBO.

I can tell when God is sending me a message. I’m not stupid. So I watched it. And wondered again: why do people give Warren Beatty money to make movies? He doesn’t act. He just presents the fact of Warren Beatty for your approval. Now, Al Pacino: America’s finest rant ‘n raver. There’s still scenery from that movie in his small intestine. Madonna: not that good a singer, and not all that pretty, either. Of course you could say that about Fred Astaire, but Fred Astaire was not in this movie.(He would have been if he’d been sleeping with Beatty.) All in all, a weird, unsatisfying thing that hurts your eyes. When you shout TURN IT DOWN you’re referring to the saturation of the colors, not the volume.

Checked the credits to see who was laboring under all that facial latex, and saw STORE CLERK - HAMILTON CAMP. Hmm. I remembered him from exactly one thing, and that was a Mary Tyler Moore show in which he was a short guy. That was his role: short guy dating Mary. A little wee sherpa who wanted to climb Mt. Mar. I rewound to his scene; you can’t tell it’s him, so I’ll take their word for it. What has he been doing for 20 years? No! Don’t him at report! Save your fingers; I’ll do it myself. . .

Well, not much. This is the actor’s life; you languish, you rot, you strut the hustings, then get another shot. You’re in Warren Beatty’s new Dick Tracy movie - they say it’s going to be another Batman! You mention it to friends and family; everyone’s happy. Everyone goes to the premiere waiting for your scene. It’s cut to 7 seconds, and your face isn’t visible. Then you fall off the cliff again, waiting for wrinkles so you can reestablish yourself as a character actor. It never occurs to you that your name might be the problem, that Ham Camp sounds like a summer fat-farm or a brand of pork and beans.

I think that movie ate a few careers whole, but not Mr. Beatty.

Good day. Great day, in fact. I amused Gnat for an hour playing ball. The key was to act slightly horrified when it bumped into the wall, as if I’d broken some rule. Oh, the gales of mirth. Then she wanted to watch her gaddanged Maisy ABC tape, which drives me B-is-for-batty. It’s not that I don’t like Maisy. I do. But the tape is just annoying - there’s a sequence in which Maisy Mouse, Tallulah Chicken, Charlie Crocodile and some dumb fargin’ Elephant have a parade, and play this clangorous version of London Bridge that makes me want to put knitting needles through my ears. Anyway, she wanted to see it, and I said: well, play it, honey.

“Okay.” The little 22-month old toddles to the TV, opens the doors on the lower cabinet, finds the tape that says Maisy ABC, pushes EJECT to clear the previous tape, inserts Maisy and says “Here it comes!”

In other words, she identifies the Maisy-specfic font on the tape. She recognizes each of the three Busytown videos by label: beeztone, she says. Show her a tape whose label says Elmo: “Ehmo!”

Later, we did some shape ID’ing. She has a book of shapes which she studies rather intently, and today it paid off. Sqware. Cihcle. Tiangle. Ectangle. Diamon. And then the real stunner: I drew a stop sign.


Criminey Joseph, she knows Octagon. I’ll provide video proof soon.

Off to Target, where I bought everything except what I needed to get (trash bags) then to Organized Living, or Anal Retentives ‘R Us. At the counter the clerk asked if I got their catalogs, and I smiled yes, I’m in your database, one more set of skeletan remains taking up space in your digital catacombs. I put my purchase on the counter: five adhesive broom holders.

“Can I have your last name?”

Man, I hate this. I hate being put in the position of telling the clerk that their employer can stick this intrusive, time-consuming interrogation in their corporate blowhole, because it’s not the clerk’s fault. And I always feel as if I’m coming off as one of those crusading paranoids, one of those tiresome sorts who’s always on the lookout for a chance to Take A Stand. “Aw, do I have to?” I said. “It’s just some hooks.”

The clerk pushed the DECLINE button, and we went on with the transaction. Of course I used my debit card, which - if the people who set these terminals up knew what they were doing - would hand over just the information I’d declined to give. I don’t mind that. When I use plastic I assume a certain amount of data leakage; it’s the price I pay for not living in a barter economy, or using cash. I just want the invasion to be zipless, that’s all.

Punchline: the clerk sees my name pop up on the screen. She looks at the tot in my cart.

“This must be Gnat,” she says. And now I’m completely unmanned, because I’m three weeks past a haircut, I missed a spot shaving this morning, I had to pull the old Captain Privacy routine, and now I have to shift instantly into Public Figure mode. I’m wondering if I’ve been a jerk, the other person is thinking he wasn’t kidding; he is short.

It’s a peculiar life. Hence my personal law: live every day like a short non-jerk. Especially one whose daughter is watching.

Hooboy. Having reread today’s bleat, that’s all I can say: hooooboy. I bring this up just because I think it's . . . unusual, and reveals a different aspect to a place I pass daily and patronize once a week. It's an interesting story you might have heard, but I’ve not seen it discussed anywhere in blogland. I’ll walk you through it backwards.

1. There’s a charity set up to help Palestinians - supply food, medical assistance, school books, etc. Its website naturally makes no mention of Israel, but refers to occupied Palestine, 1948 Palestine, etc.

2. One of the members of the board of directors is Sheikh Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a professor of Islamic law in Qatar.

3. This same professor is on the board of directors of an Islamic investment group, where he is in charge of making sure the company’s actions are done in accordance with Shari'a, Islamic law. Oddly enough, the Shari'a page for this company is "Under Construction." (Update: link removed because the page now returns a 404 instead of an Under Construction page.)

Hmmm. It looked okay when Google cached it.

4. This investment group is called First Islamic, and has sunk money into many US companies.

5. The professor is a member of the group that assassinated Sadat.

6. Punchline: First Islamic owns 87.8% of Caribou Coffee.

Caribou is a local chain - at least it got its start here in Minnesota. I visit the Edina branch once a week, because it’s convenient. I’ve never been impressed with their coffee - I don’t know quite how to put this, but it has no floor. It’s all walls. I like my coffee strong and stern, and Caribou just doesn’t deliver. It’s a wedgie, not a chair, meaning it hits you in the same region but not with the effect you’d desire. But the stores look great. They’re all modeled after an Alaskan lodge, although it might as well be a Minnesota North Woods cabin, with Mission fixtures, stone floors, fireplaces. Lovely little rooms - I always enjoy a stay there. In fact I have a cool Caribou mug in my cupboards. They have a trivia contest every day that makes you feel brillaint; the staff is usually cheerful, including many young women exposing calves, tattooed necks and various piercings, working alongside men in tight quarters.

Eighty-eight percent owned by First Islamic. I guarantee no one around here knows this, unless they clicked on a FARK link to today. Surprised the hell out of me. Apparently there's an Internet letter going around telling people to boycott Caribou because it's owned by terrorists!!! Not the case, of course. People are confusing the agenda of a member of the company with the company that owns Caribou, and that's not always wise; there's no reason conservatives should deny themselves a TCBY cone because Hillary Clinton sat on the board. Perhaps this fellow no longer is associated with First Islamic, and the page is down to allow them time to retool the list of scholars. Let us not leap to conclusions.

But who is al-Qaradawi, and what does he believe? As far as we know he is the holding company's advisor on religious matters. Let us look at the writings of the man, which are plentiful on the Internet.

First caveat: are the writings on the Internet of Shaykh al-Qaradawi the same as the fellow who’s on the board of First Islamist? His bio is here. The bio says: "In 1977, he laid the foundation for the Faculty of Islamic Shari'a in the university of Qatar and became the faculty's dean. In the same year he founded the Centre of Sira and Sunna Research. "

The First Islamic cached page says: " Chairman, Seerah & Sunnah Center, Qatar University; Professor, Faculty of Shari’ah, Qatar University." Seems safe to assume that's him; regard everything that follows as being predicated on that assumption. Some excerpts from the bio:

Shaykh al-Qaradawi's affiliation with the Moslem Brotherhood led to his detention in Egyptian prisons in the year 1949, the period from 1954 to 1956 and for a brief period in 1962.

Some info on the Muslim Brotherhood is here, and here. Note the part where four members assassinated Sadat. (They’d tried to kill Nasser before.) The bio also says Shaykh al-Qaradawi states that Imam Hassan al-Banna (Founder of the Moslem Brotherhood) is his foremost mentor. Although he met the Imam in a few occasions, the impact of the Imam's personality on the young Shaykh was termendous. (sic) Quoting from the second link, the jdl page:

When the Second World War broke out, (al-Banna) tried to bring in two new partners: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He sent the two letters and emissaries, and called on them to help him in his dual struggle: ejection of the British enemy from Egypt and the downfall of the corrupt regime of King Farouk.

Consider the source, of course; not everyone considers the JDL an unbiased observer. Googling the subject in various permutations brings up lots of stuff - judge your yourself. But even if al-Qaradawi rejected the assassination of Sadat and other acts of enthusiastic political rearrangement, we have his writings, which describe a cultural outlook at odds with your average American coffee shop. Here’s a passage from a book on Women in Islam. I bring this up not to ridicule Islam - the opinions of a scholar are just that - but to put this in a modern American political context: if Starbucks had a board member in favor of some of these things, I think we might have seen the entire chain collapse from a well-organized boycott. Here's what he writes:

Pseudo-arguments for unrestricted mixing

"Intellectual imperialism" has managed to create in our countries people who turn a deaf ear to the ruling of Allah and His Messenger. These people call on us to give the woman free rein to assert herself, promote her personality, enjoy her life and her femininity. They want her to mix with men freely, experience them closely where they would be together and alone, travel with them, go to cinemas or dance till midnight together. She is supposed to find the "right man" from all those she has known. In this way, it is said, life is supposed to be more secure and have greater stability in the face adversity.

These people who may well be thinking of themselves as unblemished seraphs, tell us not to worry about the man or woman as a result of this "decent" communication, innocent friendship and upright contact. The frequency of their contact will pacify desire. The two sexes will supposedly find satisfaction in the mere look, conversation or, in the extreme, dancing together, which is only a form of elevating artistic impression. Sensual pleasure would have no place. It is a clean vent for energy, nothing more. This is said to be what the advanced West did after they rid themselves of complexes and privation.

... The West itself, enamoured by these ideas, is suffering the consequences of dissipation and decaying morality that has corrupted its youth and doomed its civilisation to ruin and collapse. In the United States, in Sweden, and in other countries where sexual freedom is the norm, statistics show that feverish lust is not alleviated by freedom of talk and contact, nor by whatever may follow that. On the contrary, the more people taste, the thirstier they become."

On the two-fourths rule of female testimony

If your store is ever robbed, you’d better have a man on hand to identify the criminal.

...the Qur'an makes the testimony of one man equal to the testimony of two women. Moreover, the majority of jurisprudents establish that a woman's testimony does not count in major crimes and in matters which do not relate to the rule of retaliation in kind. . . . this is far from being due to any belief in a deficiency of the woman's humanity and integrity. It is rather due to her natural disposition and her special inclinations which may exclude her involvement in such matters while being focused on motherhood or the household. Hence, there is very likely to be a kind of characteristic inattention on her part when it comes to handling these matters. . . .The exclusion of woman's testimony, altogether, from cases of major crimes, and cases requiring retaliation in kind, is meant to protect women and distance them from sites of crime and aggressions against souls, honour and property. It is not infrequent, for instance, to see a woman closing her eyes, or running away in panic from a scene of bloodshed; therefore , it becomes difficult for that woman to give a reliable account of the crime.”

Hey, I report. You decide.

On Polygamy, the Righteousness of:

The system of polygamy according to Islamic Law is a moral, human system. It is moral because it does not allow man to have intercourse with any woman he wishes, at any time he likes. He is not allowed to have intercourse with more than three women in addition to his (first) wife, and he cannot do that secretly, but must proceed with a contract and announce it, even among a limited audience.

On the problem of women being allowed to work wherever they dang well please, like a coffeeshop staffed with and frequented by men:

When the woman is involved in men's work without restrictions or limits, it has its harmful effect on various aspects:

1. It is harmful for the woman herself because she loses her femininity and her distinguishing characteristics and is deprived of her home and children. Some become barren and some are like "the third sex", which is neither a man nor a woman.
2. It is harmful for the husband because he is deprived of a bounteous source flowing with good company and cheerfulness. Nothing flows any longer except arguments and complaints about the troubles of work, the rivalry of work mates, men and women. This is in addition to the competior jealousy the man may feel, real or imagined, of other men in the workplace who vie for her attention.
3. It has a harmful effect on children because a mother's compassion, sympathy and supervision cannot be compensated by a servant or a teacher. How can children get benefit from a mother spending her day at work and on her arrival at home being tired and stressed? Neither her physical nor her psychological condition would allow the best she has to give regarding education or direction to her children.
4. It is harmful for men because every working woman takes the position of an eligible working man. As long as there are unemployed men in the society, the woman's work is harmful to them.
5. It is harmful for the work itself because women are frequently absent from their work due to natural emergencies which cannot be avoided, as menstruation, giving birth, nursing a baby, and the like. All such things deprive the work of discipline and valuable output.
6. It is harmful on morals. It is harmful to the woman's morals if she loses her modesty and on the man if he loses his attentiveness. It is harmful on the whole society if earning a living and increasing the income is the main goal sought by people, disregarding higher principles and good models.
7. It is harmful on social life because going against the grains of nature and dislocating things which are naturally located spoils life itself and causes imbalance, disorder and chaos.

On the finer points of having your coffee standing, a passage from a book on resisting extremism by rejecting pointlessly strict interpretations of religious dictates:

"The Prophet's companions as well as the early righteous forebears never prohibited anything unless they were sure that it was categorically so. Otherwise, they used to recommend against it, or express their abhorrence of it, etc, but never categorically declared it haram. Extremists, however, hastily prohibit without reservation, out of piety and coutiousness, if we take them to be wellúmeaning, or possibly out of other motives known only to Allah (SWT). If there are two opinions in Islamic jurisprudence about a certain issue, one declaring it mubah and the other makruh, the extremists abide by the latter; if it is declared makru,h by one and haram by another, they also favor the latter. If there are two opinions, one which facilitates while the other makes things difficult, they also follow the latter. They persistently adhere to Ibn 'Umar's hard-line opinions, but never accept Ibn 'Abbes' facilitations. This tendency is largely due to their ignorance of the point of view which avails facilitation.

To illustrate this point, I would like to relate the following incident which I myself witnessed. One day, an extremist saw a man drinking water while he was standing. The extremist roughly asked him to sit down because such an action was a deviation from the Prophet's Sunnah. Confused, the man remained standing. He was then told that if he were a true Muslim, he would immediately induce vomiting to purify himself. At this point I gently intervened, telling the extremist: "The matter does not deserve this harshness. Standing is a minor controversial issue which does not deserve outright condemnation or harshness." The extremist then said that there is a haith which categorically forbid it, and require "whoever absentmindedly does so to induce vomiting." My reply was: "But the ahaith which permit drinking while standing are more authentic and were therefore cited by al Bukhari in a chapter in his Sahih entitled "Drinking While Standing, but he cited none of the a,hadith which forbade it. Furthermore, al Tirmidi as well as others, reported several a hadith which testify to this. It is also true that the Prophet (SA'AS) drank water while standing during his farewell hajj. Moreover, it is narrated that 'AIi ibn Abu Talib (RA'A) drank while standing and said "Some people dislike drinking while standing, but I saw the Prophet (SA'AS) doing it, just as you see me doing it now.

I am not being facetious when I say that this passage, which boggles my Lutheran eyes, appears to be an expression of moderation - which I humbly submit speaks to cultural differences, the depth of which may yet be unplumbed, and whose ability to be reconciled with mainstream Western ideas remains to be seen. Being unschooled in the breadth of Muslim opinion, I cannot assert that the "extremist" position he describes is typical of anything but a small faction - indeed, such insistence on purity might well annoy the vast majority of Muslims who regard these Scholastic distinctions as an impediment to faith, not an affirmation of it.

In any case, the gentleman is welcome to think as he wishes; his co-religionists are likewise welcome to believe as he believes, and open a mosque down the street from me and attempt to persuade people that their societal modalities are the path to happiness. I read nothing in al-Qaradawi’s work that insists the West must be bent to the will of Islam by force, only that it Islam should choose opportunities to state its case unmolested and use its manifest virtue to sway the hearts of spiritual seekers. That's their right in America. The right of Christianity to do so in Saudi Arabia is, of course, another matter.

I certainly don't meant to suggest that any of this influences the operation of Caribou Coffee, or reflects the opinions of its management or staff. Obviously not. It's merely an instructive comparison. If these ideas were put forth by an advisor to any major American corporation, and word got out that McDonald's had a religious advisor on staff who thought women took jobs away from men, you can imagine the hellacious commotion that would result.

I don't even mean to suggest that First Islamic imposes these ideas on companies it owns. Obviously they don't.

Although I do find it curious that the Sharia page is no longer available.

I'm sure there's a perfectly innocent explanation.


Update: I've been informed that First Islamist prohibits linking to the site without permission. (snicker.) Try the snopes link; it'll go to their site, and it also provides some info.

I had forgotten to say what I was going to say the other day about the Dirty Bomber: the way in which it has changed the definition of “Dirty.” Now when we see “Dirty Dancing” at the video rental shop, we’ll think of some sort of hip-grinding maneuver that leaves dance floors uninhabitable for decades. I suppose if someone ever uses a weapon forbidden by international treaty, he’ll be known as the Lambada Bomber.

Did we ever learn why, or how, the Lambada became the Forbidden Dance? It seemed a rather unenforceable verdict. It was never quite clear on whose authority it was deemed Forbidden, anyway, or whether appeals were filed.

I’m beat. Actually, no, I’m not; I’m refreshed now, but beat I was, all day, and beatedness seems to define this day. (People forget, or don’t know, that the “Beat Generation” didn’t mean some sort of finger-snapping eight-to-the-bar demographic, but people who were literally “beat” by the grinding oppression and banality of post-war America. Which makes them not only proto-slackers, but whiny ones to boot.) Stayed up too late last night tuning that little piece on Caraboom coffee, and around 12:40 AM I remembered - to my absolute horror - that I’d forgotten to work on the newspaper column, which I’d been unable to do in the afternoon. So I bent down and hammered it out; check Sunday’s Backfence to see what comes from such a state. I was so stoked by then anyway that the piece rolled out without effort, but this morning I was dead. Dead. And when your energy level doesn’t perk up after a pot of coffee, you know you’re in for a grueling day - particularly when your toddler takes only a 40 minute nap. At one point this afternoon I was just punchy - so was Gnat, although she refused to renap. So she sat on the sofa and watched Elmo, and I opened the laptop and whipped up a little site you’ll see at the end of this bleat.

Today’s evidence of Gnat’s Doubtless Genius: improvisational lyrics. We were driving along, singing the Toddler Hit Parade - the ABC song, The Itsy-Bitsy Spider (and was there ever such a song about the triumph of hope over experience? Spider! Buy a clue! Avoid the waterspout!) and my all-time least favorite, the Wheels on the Bus. We did the wheels, the window, the kids, the mommies, the daddies on the bus, the lights, the wipers, the oil pump, the hydraulic system, etc. I suggested a new lyric: the cows on the bus go . . .

She thought a second, and said Moo Moo Moo. Moo Moo Moo.

Right. “The cows on the bus go moo moo moo,” I said, and we joined in on the last line: All around the town. Went through the entire animal kingdom (“the wallabies on the bus go g’day mait, g’day mait, g’day mait) and she would name the relevant sound, three times.

It impressed me, but I’m highly impressionable.