Attention: despite what the menu bar says below, there is no Flotsam today. Maybe tomorrow. Just didn’t get around to it today, and I can sum that up in seven words: Book. Book. Book. Book. Book. Book. Book.

Friday I was passing Theater Antiques on Lyndale, and saw in the window one of the very lamps I’ve seen in the books I’m using for Interior Desecrators. Five chrome poles with light bulbs on top, mounted on a mirrored box. I went inside and asked “how much is that abomination?” One hundred and ten dollars. Good Lord. Goooood Lord. I’m sure there’s someone out there decorating their house in 1972 style in the belief that it’s just the coolest thing, but they’re wrong. Style and taste are not objective. This lamp was ugly, and any room in which it belonged was ugly. I can prove this. Don’t make me try.

I found a stack of Architectural Forum magazines from 1958-1961, and spent half an hour on the floor, rapt. It’s an interesting period - modernism was now the Official Form of Corporate America, like it or not, and these magazines had a technocratic swagger that seems so romantic in hindsight. All these smiling architects with buzzcuts, white shirts, black ties, black glasses, standing in front of models of buildings which were going to change the world. I have an issue of “Pencil Points” from the late 30s; it too dreamed of the future - but no one was building anything then, so the magazine had to do with schools and post offices. But when the future came, it was going to be round and sleek! Sorry. It was black and boxy. But for a while this seemed even better.

I bought the August 1958 issue, because I collect magazines from the year I was born. It had a story on a rising star in the profession. A fellow by the name of Yamasaki.
Later that day I bought a magazine with a picture that reminded me again of Mr. Yamasaki; it was a picture of a vast construction site, ringed with men and trucks; the floor of the site was smooth and clean. There wasn’t a rock out of place. It was a photo of the day when the last piece of debris was removed from Yamasaki’s grandest creation: the World Trade Center.


Book. Book. Book. Book. Book. Book. Book. I can’t take it any longer. Looking at all these pictures of rooms without humans - it’s like I’m compiling a book on the aftermath of the neutron bomb. And I still have to write the big introductory essay for the Interior Desecrators book, explaining why I think everything got so ugly. I almost believe I can find the moment when it happened, if I look hard enough; I can find the day the dam broke and all the ugly nonsense that had been swirling around in the “counterculture” flooded into the hinterlands. I blame the boomers, of course. Why not? They’re handy, and they usually fit the bill. The boomers might be the first generation whose self-regard was matched only by their lack of taste - and exceeded by their devotion to the New, regardless of merit. Because (just thinking out loud here) they identified with the New, and if it was good, they were good. And vice versa. They took youth culture and, by strength of numbers, made the culture, period.

That’s why rock couldn’t just be a soundtrack for adolescence and early adulthood - it had to be important, and important in a way previously reserved for highbrow art forms. This isn’t new - Jazz went through the same wannabe period. Well, white Jazz did. Hence that famous concert that presented Jazz as a Serious Musical form, with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue trying to make the case. (It seems strange now that the case should have had to been made at all.)
The difference between Rhapsody in Blue and, say, Procul Harem cutting an album with the always-available London Symphony Orchestra is not one of intentions, but quality. Gershwin was a real musician, a true composer in a way 99% of rock musicians aren’t. Everyone lauds the Beatles, and rightly so, but nothing they did had the ingenuity and brilliance of Gershwin’s piano pieces. That doesn’t make them bad. It just makes them . . . simpler.

Simpler doesn’t mean something is worse anymore than complexity means something is better. I’ll take any haiku over any latter-day Norman Mailer novel. That’s not the point. The point is that the boomers inherited a culture that devalued artistic discipline, and for that I blame the French. They abandoned the ossified rules of the academic styles, unraveled the hard lines of representational art into Impressionism, Expressionism, and all the subsequent isms. The result was liberating, and transformed Western Art. But. Once you’ve done that, you can either go back to the old forms with what you’ve learned, as the Surrealists did (Dali was a hack, but he could paint, and it’s odd now that his work looks“realistic” now, because it contains recognizable objects, even if their context or size or qualities have been distorted.) Or you can start tearing down the assumptions that your revolutionary predecessors have give you.
So you get the Abstract Expressionists, the Cubists, and so forth down the line, each getting farther and farther from the world as we see it. “Beauty” becomes almost a camp notion, a set of discredited assumptions; a sunset may still be lovely, but the man who can paint one is sneered at. Art becomes a means of illustrating theories and manifestos.

The entire continental shelf of tradition fell into the sea, and“art” turned into the private preserve of its practitioners.
Most people couldn’t figure out what the hell it was, and stopped caring.

Again, this doesn’t mean that nothing good came of it - the 20th century pictoral and sculptural tradition is certainly richer than the 19th century, if you ask me. (And if you don’t include the French, who were in front of everyone.) But the overall effect of destroying tradition made it harder to look at nonsense and call it nonsense, to look at ugliness and call it ugly.

In this climate, experimentation thrives: hooray. But it means that the idea of “art” becomes a shark that has to move forward at all times, and the next new thing was often embraced simply for its newness, because people didn’t want to seem out of date. Pop Art and Warhol are perfect examples. It’s clever stuff, but it relies entirely on theory, and requires you to understand the theory to understand the work. The commonplace soup can has been repositioned as an iconic symbol of the times! Nice trick. But it’s not the reproduction of the can that qualifies as art, it’s the act of repositioning it. What’s on the canvas matters less than the intentions of the artist. You can make the same point about the Italian Renaissance, that one must know the whole of Catholic iconography to understand the symbolism, but it’s not the same. Your understand adds to your appreciation, but your appreciation of the image’s beauty is not predicated on knowing that the pomegranate in the corner refers to St. Bracco the Lame. If religion and all that it contains were to be erased from every mind on the planet, the Sistine Chapel would still be beautiful.

Sez you, because you’re conditioned to receive images like this and process them as “beautiful,” because the culture has trained you. Really? Let’s return to my favorite piece of modern art, glimpsed at a Whitney biennial - a chunk of chocolate with toothmarks, meant to symbolize the artist’s conflicted sense of body images in modern culture, next to a gout of laminated vomit on the floor, meant as a protest of Barbie-doll culture that leads women to bulimia.
When you throw out the old standards - draftsmanship, composition, ability to actually paint a landscape that looks like a landscape - you get, in the end, a pile of vomit on a museum floor. You get lots of other cool stuff on the way, of course. But when “beauty” is discredited, you get barf, and you have no words to explain why the barf is lousy art. And if beauty is a socially-constructed notion, then find me ten people from every culture on earth; place them before any piece of sculpture from the Greeks to the Romans to the Franks to the Renaissance to a pillowy stone creation of Canova, and next to this sculpture place a pile of vomit, and see which one draws the smiles and wide eyes, which one invites the eye to study its dozens of details. Go to any good museum, and you will see people put their hands to their heart when they stand before a great canvas; go back in time to that biennial I attended, and watch them put their hand on their stomach.

So do I think everyone should paint like Ingres and David? No. I’m happy some do, and I’m pleased that the art of the human form lives on comic books. (Really. The last outpost of representational art.) I’m just trying to explain in a meandering, joyless, facile way (I’m tired; very tired) how the stage was set for the Boomers, and their own banal sense of aesthetics. The decks were cleared by the time they showed up. Good and bad were less important than New and Old. Mass culture, which had been revving up for decades, exploded in the 60s, and the Boomers’ youth culture provided the fuel. Unparalleled affluence, unexamined confidence, and a complete disinterest in historical precedence: that’s how you get all the shite in these books I’ve been staring at for four weeks straight.



Forgive them, for they knew not what they did. Plus, they were wasted.

PERMANENT LINK: http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/02/0802/080202.html#081202

TODAY: Jennifer Connoly, Gnat. But first, nuking Iraq.

Every ten years, it seems, I write a column about nuking Iraq. I hope the one I’m working on now is my last; it’s not a subject I wish to revisit. The first was written during GW1, and was somewhat . . . misunderstood. I met someone years later who said that he considered if one of the most unforgivable things I’d ever written.

I think he misread the main points. It was written during the bombing campaign, when the papers ran stories about casualties in Baghdad. The Iraqi press would release photos of a demolished building, claim it was a factory that made Hello Kitty licensed pacifiers, and insist that 87 women and children had died. If true, of course it would be horrible. War is horrible. Horrible things happen by accident, and this fact turns many against the very idea of waging war for any reason. There were people then who wished that we had let Iraq keep Kuwait, and express our displeasure with sanctions. These are the very people who today demand that the sanctions be lifted, of course, because they are killing women and children. They would prefer a world with no war and no sanctions, and if 87 Kuwaitis die each week from torture, that’s an internal matter we can raise before the plenary session of the UN Commission on Frowning Hard And Drafting Instructions to Convene an Investigative Body And Then Adjourn For Lunch At That New Korean Noodle Place on Madison; Try the Sesame Broth.

What prompted my column was the notion that deaths in the Iraqi army were somehow different than civilian deaths. In one sense they were, since all the usual international accords agree that you can blow someone’s head off with a clear conscience if he’s in uniform. But in a conscript army assembled by a dictatorship, the line between civilian and soldier gets blurred, at least by my calculation. The woman whose roof falls in because a cruise missile hits a telephone relay station next door did not deserve her fate. And the conscript standing in the middle of the desert, soiling his drawers as he waits for the tanks or the drone of the plane overhead - he didn’t deserve it either.

That was part of my point - rolling over the Iraqi army might require great casualties, and the cannon fodder had been poked out into the desert at bayonet point. I’m not saying I was rooting for them. I just didn’t see them all as raving enthusiasts for the Butcher of Tikrit, eager to kill Americans. It just seemed wrong not to give them a taste of the dignity we gave civilian casualties.

In this context, I discussed the nukes. Before the ground war began, there was much discussion of battlefield nukes, and the Pentagon was coy, in that special way they have. The press was as stupid then as it is now: General Powell, are you going to nuke them?

Powell: We have a robust selection of options whose utilization depends, of course, on how events unfold.

Headline the next day: POWELL DOES NOT RULE OUT NUKES.
Why would anyone use a nuke? people wondered. To eliminate massed armies, others said. (We generally believed that there were huge troop formations in the desert, waiting for the command to CHARGE.) What we, the press, didn’t know - because we hadn’t cared to study the subject before hand, except for the military correspondents - was that the US had something called a fuel-air explosive, which was much more effective than big sloppy nukes. Certainly cheaper, and with less international fallout. Everyone would have a cow the size of Paul Bunyon’s ox if the US had used nukes, but if you kill all the troops in a certain area with conventional weapons, well, that’s war.

That was the distinction I was writing about. The death of conscripts by conventional means was acceptable, if you used a certain kind of weapon. There was a moral component to how you generate overpressure. But it doesn't matter how you kill them; it all comes down to dead guys who didn’t want to be there.

The tragedy of that fact, however, was not a sufficient reason to oppose rolling Saddam’s army back. At least in my view then, and now.

It just seemed like something to keep in mind. Frankly, I was happy to see the Taliban and Al Qaeda take a pasting. I had no tears for the looters leaving Kuwait with TVs and microwaves. The Republican Guard wants to play Alamo in GW2, well, bring in the Spookies. But no one’s rooting for the wholesale slaughter of the Iraqi army. I don’t know anyone who supports a preemptive strike who smacks their lips at the thought of converting the conscript Army to khaki jam; you look at those pathetic dorks in the PR photos Iraq’s been releasing, and you just want to tell them to go home and play with their kids.

If there is a war, the guys in the photos won't fight. In the first hour they will realize that they are severely screwed, because nothing works. Not the radio, not the phones, not the lights, nothing. And all the ammo dumps are going up. And the bridges are out. It a political officer pulls a revolver to impose discipline, he'll either be shot by the troops or find himself unable to shoot the troops as they flee into the darkness. There will be a strong trend towards self-preservation. Uniforms will not be popular things. Conscript morale, already as low and thin as dew in a gully, will evaporate. Who wants to die for that son of a bitch?

In WW 2 everyone knew that taking out Hitler meant uprooting the culture of Nazism - a thing whose roots were tangled in German identity. But there is no such thing as Saddamism. His statues will topple and his secret police will be strung up and spat upon, and for all the chaos that will follow you will have millions of people who will be freed of the old fear; millions of men no longer fed to the guns; millions of women who will not see their sons shoved to the front. We’ll see the tours of the weapons factories, the torture cells, hear the stories of the dissidents, understand in all its stultifying detail the extent to which this cult penetrated every aspect of civil, intellectual, scientific and spiritual life. And at some point when we realize how bad it was for them, and how few suffered to lift the yoke, and how they have their future in their own hands for the first time in decades, it will be incumbent upon the critics of the war to prove why it would have been better to keep Saddam in power. And why they thought the gossamer strands of diplomatic disapproval would ever bind his arms.

There; I’ve said it; it’s archived. If history proves me an idiot, here’s exhibit #1. Or #43,293. Who am I to say.


What happened to Jennifer Connoly? She’s on the cover of Vanity Fair this month, unrecognizable to me. I first saw her in “The Wokateer,” a fun but disappointing movie from the early 90s. (Yes, yes, it’s called “the Rocketeer,” but in the theater where we saw it a small child kept calling him the Wokateer, and that’s how I recall it.) She had a 40s voluptuousness that fit the role perfectly. Later I saw her in a movie she’d made a few years before - “The Hot Spot,” with Sonny Crockett and Virginia Madsen, directed by Frank from “Blue Velvet.” I saw this one recently on HBO, and maybe it was the lateness of the hour, but damn: that’s good cheap sweaty noir. It’s in the same genre as “Red Rock West,” “Blood Simple,” and other sultry drifter-grifter movies. It’s notable for many things:

1. Don Johnson is smoking a Kool in every scene, except for the ones in which he is lighting one. Given that his smoke of choice in “Miami Vice” was unfiltered Luckies, one can only marvel at the influence of Joe Esterhaus.

2. Soundtrack. I’m not a blues lover. This movie made me one.

3. A world that gives more roles to Sharon Stone than Virginia Madsen is not a just world.

4. William Sandler: he’s just plain nuts. Pick a role, any role: just plain nuts.

Recommended. Its leisurely pace and choice of leading man may put some off, but I’ve always liked Don Johnson. “Vice” used his small talent well, and“The Hot Spot” does likewise.
Anyway, Jennifer C.: she appears to have shed 74 pounds, and edited her face down to the blank planes of a standard-issue fashion model. Compare the cover of Vanity Fair to the young woman in “The Hot Spot.” Not exactly Paradise Lost, but perhaps Paradise Thrown Up, Repeatedly. Pity.

Obligatory Gnat tale: Today were counting duplo blocks. I said one number, she said the next. And so forth. I wasn’t really paying attention, and then I heard her say: “twenny foh.”

I said “Twenty five.”

“Twenny six,” she said.

Two years old and she’s counting into the high twenties.
The blocks fell down.

“Oh my goodness,” she said. I could have kissed her.

Actually, I did just that.

PERMANENT LINK: http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/02/0802/080202.html#081302

So Gnat just rolls off my lap and hits the floor, making a brief stop at the edge of the table. We were reading a book - a lousy one, too - and she just flung herself up and out and off. They’ll do that. Tie them to a lamppost with duct tape, turn your back, and in 40 seconds they’ll have managed to get a black eye by banging the back of their head on the post. Perhaps the resilience of children and their ability to knock themselves out six times a day is a way of inuring parents to the realities of life. The first time the tot does a header into the wall, you want to die. The second time you try to get your heart down your throat before it bruises your voice box. Eventually you take it in stride - and while that seems to be an odd & callous lesson to learn, your kid learns from it. When she falls and bumps her brainpan and cries, I give her attention and compassion, the big hug and the soothing words - but there’s a cutoff point. Once I think she knows I’ve responded to her discomfort, it’s Distraction Time. She could either cry for three minutes and soak in a bucket of parental emotion, or she can cry for one minute, have her tears kissed away, and then be treated to the sight of Mr. Potato Man riding Jasper around the kitchen. Am I a bad parent? Maybe. But she seems happier laughing than when she's crying. What could that possibly mean? Let me consult "Parenting for Dummies," and the follow-up "Childrearing for Glassy-eyed Clueless Procreators." I'll get back to you.

Today’s tumble earned half a bowl of blue sugared cow-hooves. AKA Jell-O. AKA Jewwo. It was not presented as a reward for injury, or a consequence of it, but an Interesting Proposition: hey, want some blue Jell-0? It’s Extreme! The package says so - Blastin’ Blueberry, Radical Raspberry, Paradigm-Shiftin’ Papaya, Post-Imperialist Structuralist Strawberry. . You could almost see the tears retreat up their wet tracks into her eyes: why, yes. A dish of congealed translucent ground-up ruminant soles would hit the spot nicely.

It made her tongue turn blue, which was perhaps the funniest thing that had ever happened to any human being in the history of the species. Crisis averted. Life returns to normal. Dad pats himself on the back for being the very model of a modern parent, striking a perfect balance between compassion and character-building. Gnat toddles off to her little desk, to work on a crayon project. As she climbs up on her little chair, she manages to flip it, and I see her clip her chin on the chair en route to the floor.

If anything sums up today, it’s this: the kid’s bleeding and I’ve already used up the Jell-O trick.

And the phone’s ringing.

And I just remembered that before she took the first tumble, I’d put some chicken on the grill outside. So.

I take the call, promise to call them back, head outside with Gnat in my arms, and turn off the gas - and as I’m closing the valve, I realize that fatherhood has made me an expert practitioner of the Bunny Dip, the maneuver by which waitresses delivered drinks at the Playboy Club. You don’t lean down, you bend at the knees so the merch is always at eye level with the third-rate satyrs you’re serving. She’s still upset, of course, so we head upstairs for the consolations of the Big Bed in the guest room, where she likes to surround herself with all her stuffed animals, AKA “frenz.” I bring in her friends and dump the entire menagerie on the bed - Witchy Bear (an orange bear with a witch’s hat) Hippie Elephant (a tie-dyed pachyderm) Blind Bunny (the Pat-the-Bunny icon in fabric form; its eyes, which were just black thread, have been pulled out - how? When? Did it have some Oedipal moment, some Lear-like episode of madness that required self-blinding?) There was Construction Dog, a puppy with a hard-hat whose internal barking mechanism makes the same sound as Spare Dog, who vanished several weeks ago and has not been heard from since. There was Winky, The Happy Sheep From Happy Sleep Land, so named during Gnat’s infancy when she refused to sleep in her crib. Look, I would say with grim exhausted exasperation, it’s Winky, the happy sheep from happy sleep land. Oh the irony that he should share your sleepless cell. There was Orange Bear, who is exactly that; Kitty, who has no attributes of note; Cozumel Cathy, a doll sent by some wonderful Bleat patrons who visited Coz on my recommendation; and Hammy, the Alarmingly Lifelike Hamster. All her frenz, all here, ready to help.

“Take them away,” she sobbed.

So away they went. Well. We could always try Earthquake, where I bounce the bed and shout “earthquake.” Good for a larf now and again. Not this time. We could twirl: this meant running to the office, firing up iTunes, typing “twirl” in the search box and playing the Chunk Swirly Twirl Song from Rolie Polie Olie. But she did not wish to twirl.

At this point Jasper wandered into the room, whined a little, hopped up on the bed and sniffed her toes.

“Puppy kiss toes,” she said. “Silly puppy.”

So I kissed puppy’s toes, hoping to continue the general theme of toe-related absurdity; it worked. She laughed. Victory! I have the answer to a double-header - blue Jell-O and dog-paw kissing. File that away for future reference.

Back downstairs. I make supper, which was supposed to be marinated grilled chicken on a bed of spaghetti with tomato sauce, but is now carbonized yard-bird on mushy shoelaces. I put her in her chair for supper, and she gives me a beseeching look. “Poop, daddy.” I check. Lord amighty. Cor blighty. Mama mia that’sa spicy pantsload. Upstairs. It’s a twenty-cloth job. Paint peels; birds drop from the sky; the rubber on the wheels of jets passing overhead sheds and falls away. Back downstairs. The food’s cold. Reheat in the microwave. Eat.

It’s delicious.

Now, we clean. I like to have the kitchen and family room spotless when my wife comes home from the law shop. I’m always amused when I get mail from people who’ve read one or two things I’ve written and assume that my position on terrorism or taxes means I am some thick-browed trog who drives a Canyonero, handles snakes every Sunday, and beats my wife if one of my beer belches makes a small dust bunny roll from beneath a sofa. I cook. I clean. I do the windows. I dust. My wife has her own set of domestic chores - she does laundry, a genre for which I lack intuitive skills. The entire concept of a medium load vexes me; I can understand white, and I can understand color, but medium - ach. I am the Yoda of laundry. Cold water there is, and there is hot. There is no in between. She does much around here, but I have the time and temperament to keep Jasperwood stocked and spiffy, so I do it. When my wife comes home I want the entire house to say THERE IS NOTHING YOU NEED TO DO HERE. RELAX. That makes her happy, and making the house look right makes me happy.

I’m sure this strikes some as incompatible with concerns over Iraqi WMD. He’s overcompensating! Denied his masculine role in the workplace, he seeks to prove his manhood by thumping the drums for war!

O ye of little imagination. Offices are for wimps. Who in the workplace has to deal with bleeding humans whose pants are full of yesterday’s supper?

That was my day. Also, I wrote two columns. And six bloody fargin’ pages of the book. And this. And now it’s time to pour some TV in my eyeballs and some Finlandia down my gullet THE END.

PERMANENT LINK: http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/02/0802/080202.html#081402

Piece due to one magazine tomorrow piece due to another magazine friday book due in a week or two column due tonight radio interview friday morning

Someone hand me a feedbag stuffed with uppers. The candy-coated ones. No green ones! My contract Specifically! Says! No! Green! Bennies! Damn! Jiminey Piswitch, what do I have to do to get some HELP around here?

And turn off that frickin’ Raffi! No, I’ve never seen a moose / out on the loose / down by the bay, or any other bay-side manifestations in your interminable ditty, so shup up RIGHT NOW before you find catgut around your neck and feel your toes scrabbling for purchase in the air! Man!

It’s better to think these things than say them. Or do them, of course. Sorry. A temporary failure in the panic containment field. I will reinitialize the systems now.

<loading geniality.exe>

Ah, just you wait. Juuuust you wait. Your patience for these thick, unreadable recent bleats will be rewarded. When the decks are clear and the book is done, some changes will be coming to this spot. What, I’m not sure, but after five years of an essentially static formula, I want to change some things.

Speaking of dense, pedantic bleats - one more note on that sloppy disquisition on the fall of Modern Art. I forgot to note an important point: the rise of advertising culture took up the baton dropped by Serious Art. If you want to write a history of 20th century art, you have to pay more attention to commercial culture than the products of academe. I got two books from Amazon today, one devoted to album covers of the 40s and 50s, the other covering the “Exotica” and other 60s albums. The former, “In the Groove” by Eric Kohler, is highly recommended. Dozens of extremely cool album covers, showing the transition from the 40s styles (a period of graphic design that never gets its due) to the abstractions of the 50s. Sharp eyes will see how Soviet posters and WW2 propaganda art ended up influencing record jacket art, and you’ll feel a pang of regret over the loss of that big 12 inch canvas. CD art just isn’t the same.

Of course, I feel a pang of regret when I see Hamm’s Beer ashtrays, so take that for what it’s worth. I’d link to the page directly, but I’m not sure how to do that and get my cut, to be frank. So hit the Gallery of Regrettable Food link at the bottom of the page and put this string in the Amazon search box:

“In the Groove” Eric Kohler

If nothing else, you’ll see the ideas I rip off in coming months.

Off to the pediatrician this afternoon; Gnat’s canny Nana suspected that her chin injury - let’s call it a chinjury, just to be cloying - had developed symptoms consistent with IMPETIGO. Which was what, exactly? The sequel to that Alfred Hitchcock movie with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak? (rimshot) A new Korean subcompact? (rimshot) Why, no, of course not, moron; it’s an infection. But since it can affect the kidneys in 1 out of every 2,394,327 cases, I left work immediately and took her to the doctor, leaving my column on the operating slab, waiting to be stuffed and sewn up later.

We got right in, and the verdict was indeed Impetigo. Got a‘script for wonder drugs, put her back in the car, and wondered what the hell I was going to do now. Couldn’t go back to work. Too early to go home and make dinner. So we went to CompUSA for paper for the (*$@#*$#@ BOOK.

CompUSA always has the customer in mind, much in the way that Arafat has Sharon in mind. Half the products have no price. They have dates. That tells the staff when the item was priced. Since pricing is fluid in the hurly-burly world of office supplies, they have to rejigger the price at a moment’s notice; it’s easier for them to change the price in the computer and give the customer a delicious moment of suspense when the item is rung up. If the item is priced, the shelf label makes no sense - the Epson Matte Paper was identified as EPSON HV WT MT 50CT. Makes you want to dump a wheelbarrow full of vowels in the foyer. Here! On the house! Spread ‘em around! I sounded it out as Epson Heavyweight Matte, 50 sheets - but none of the three numerical sequences on the rack label matched the box.

Why don’t they just have someone at the exit punch you hard in the back of the head just to complete the visit? Come again, asscake. Have a nice day.

What are those, daddee? What on daddee face?

Those are veins, honey.

Back to work; have to finish the Backfence and scan ten more #*@#($@# pictures for the (#*$@#$ books. At this point, yes, I will have the green ones. Palpatations be damned.

eck - what was that - shooting pain -

Right. Regret. A pang of regret. All the way down to my wristy bone!

PERMANENT LINK: http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/02/0802/080202.html#081502

Greetings to anyone who’s listening to my appearance on MidMorning on MPR, 10-11 CST. If my appearance goes poorly, the following might help explain why.

Problem: I need a vacation.

No vacation is in sight.

Any vacation would, under the current circumstances, not be a vacation at all, unless my dearly beloved child can be cryogenically frozen and stored.

Even if this were possible, I would spend the vacation worrying about the reliability of the power supply in the freezers.

Therefore, I am hosed. Buy a 60-yard spool of hose, grease it up, roll it in: hosed is that which I am. My head is a bowling alley, and it’s league night. I think when the book is done I’ll just make a little tent around the big-screen, and have my wife shove trays of cold-cuts and Pale Ales through a slit every five hours. The book has given me an eyelid twitch severe enough to ruffle pages in an open magazine - and I’m not talking about a cheap-paper rag like This Week, but a heavy stock mag like Vanity Fair. Hook up turbines to this eyelid and you could light up a small town.

I’m tired; my eyes are scratchy and my head is full of useless cotton, the stuff you can’t quite get out of an aspirin bottle. I am tired of sitting at this desk; when I go downstairs later to open the laptop and upload this bleat, I will be tired of sitting at that table. I am tired of writing. I am tired of the whirrrr of the scanner, the sight of every web page I visit, the sound of Jasper scratching on the door when I’ve gone outside for a cigar and he wants to join me, the plink-plonk the TiVo makes when I call up an episode of Maisy - of which I am also tired. The TiVo today had the following helpful program description:

“Fleas; Boo; Sticks; Ouch.” (1999) Fleas; Boo; Sticks; Ouch.

Worth every dime, those listings. I am mostly just tired. Epstein-Barr sufferer after four days in the Tour De France tired. Personal assistant to Rosie O’Donnell tired. Today was a marathon of Gnat-care, because she would - not - nap. Put her down every fifty minutes; screaming and wailing, alive alive -o. Retrieved her, played for fifty minutes, tried again. She didn’t fall asleep until 3 PM, which was three hours later than usual, and by then we had played every game, puzzled every puzzle, rearranged the facial architecture of Mr. Potato Head into every conceivable permutation including arms jutting hideously from his face like a vivisectionist’s nightmare. We did every toy twice. At three I steeled myself for the barrage of guilt, put her down, heard her sob Daddy! as I walked downstairs, then put on the headphones and went outside to sit it out. Went back in after five minutes. Silence. She’s choked on her own vomit! Must check!

I resisted.

The only thing I wanted to do today was take back two defective toys to a kiosk in Southdale. They were cool toys, actually - eight puzzle pieces with little tracks on which you placed a motorized vehicle. Both vehicles had broken after 3 hours of play. Not good. When I returned them to the kiosk, the owner pointed me to the line on the receipt that said “No Returns, Sales Final.” I said“so you don’t stand behind your merchandise, then,” which is really a stupid thing to say to a fellow who’s manning a kiosk. He is literally standing behind his merchandise, at least from a certain angle. But I must have radiated big hot spiky red wavy lines, because he agreed to exchange the vehicles. Good move. A toy that breaks in a week is one thing - kids move on, find something new. But when the motorized ladybug dies in a day, you’re going to answer to this little beseeching face down here in the stroller, pal.
He told me that I could not return the exchanged vehicles, ever. That was it! He’d gone the extra mile! And I suppose he had. But I wonder how much personal satisfaction there can be in selling shoddy toys. Most people don’t have the time or temperament to return an $8 toy to Southdale. You have to repackage it, which means you have to corral all the loose pieces; you have to find the receipt, set it aside, and remember to take it the next time you go to the mall. Perhaps they count on parents just throwing it away.

He never reckoned on me, Mr. Too Much Damn Time On His Hands.

Afterwards we wandered around the Mall. At one point I noticed she’d lost her kangaroo doll. So. AMBER alert, stuffed version. We retraced all of our steps through three stores, asked every clerk at every counter. I ask if anyone’s turned in a rabbit doll, even though Gnat has reassigned its species, and calls it a kangaroo.

“Has anyone turned in a rabbit?” I say.

“Kagawoo,” Gnat says.

“No,” the clerk says. Repeat nine times. I am loathe to return to the toy kiosk, because now the balance of power has shifted: ah, I am the vendor of shoddy toys, but you allow your daughter to lose her beloved kagawoo. Shame, sir. Shame.

We found it sitting on a shelf at the Caribou Coffee kiosk. It was covered with dust and dirt, a sure sign of being trapped under the wheels of another baby carriage and dragged for a good distance. A joyous reunion ensued; the mood of the day temporarily brightened, we went up to the food court for hangigers and fren fries. Num. Gnat had an entire Burger King hangiger, which she ate with great concentration. I faded in and out of the parental state, lost in exhaustion and reverie. Then we gathered our packages, secured the kagaroo, wiped hangiger off her face, sponged the schmutz from her nose and cheeks, and headed home.

My wife came home two hours later. I went upstairs for a nap. I don’t even remember putting my head on the pillow.

Tonight I had to write a short bit for my Mpls/St.Paul postcard feature. They wanted something on the Gateway district, so I chose a really, really obscure postcard of the St. James hotel. Upon doing some research, however, I discovered that the building in the foreground was a famous old opera house - maybe. Perhaps. So I scoured all my reference photos, scanned the picture at 9000000dpi to bring out all the features, wrote the piece and burned the disc for submission. Then it was time for The Book. Then it was time for The Bleat. Through all of this, conversation from visiting relations, Gnat splashing in the bath, Jasper barking his demands for play -

Silencio! Silencio, por favor.

Of course if I really believed in that, I wouldn’t be yammering on the radio Friday morning, would I.

Have a good weekend; apologies for this week; nifty new stuff and a much, much better mood on Monday.

PERMANENT LINK: http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/02/0802/080202.html#081602

Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More