I’m writing this on the anniversary of the murder of Daniel Pearl. Keep that in mind:

Thanks to LGF and MEMRI, I’ve become somewhat familiar with the torrents of venom that pour from some mosques in the Middle East. The excerpts I’ve read always end with a plea to God to rev up the slaughter ASAP, with the Jews and the Crusaders being first in line for righteous smiting. There’s a lot of talk about shaking the ground under their feet, terrifying the sons of monkeys, etc etc. On the cool medium of a laptop screen the words look, well, silly. Hateful, yes. Poisonous, yes. But pathetic: they think they’re shouting from the mountaintop at the dawn of a glorious day, but they’re just ranting in a dank bunker at midnight. In a grim sort of way, the transcripts of their sermons have seemed like comic relief.

No more. I just saw a video of one of the sermons, carried on prime-time TV in Iraq. Same old same old, with a twist: Usually the text says that the very trees will cry out there is a Jew behind me, kill him. This video had a new version: even the stone will say “a Jew is hiding behind me. Come and cut off his head.

And then the mullah pulled out a sword. That’s the detail you don’t get in the transcripts: these men of God are packing heat - granted, it’s medieval-style slicy heat, but heat nonetheless.

“And we shall cut off his head!” he shouted, waving the sword. “By Allah, we shall cut it off! Oh Jews! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Jihad for the sake of Allah! Jihad for the sake of Allah!”

Playwright Harold Pinter, speaking at last weekend’s rally, said "The US is a nation out of control," and “unless we stop it, it will bring barbarism to the entire world." He said America was "a country run by a bunch of criminal lunatics with Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug."

When Blair shows up in the pulpit cleaving the air with a scimitar, let me know. When US television broadcasts a speech with Billy Graham hosting an Excalibur replica from the Franklin Mint Collection, demanding the decapitation of Muslims, let me know. When George Bush grips the podium and beseeches American rock formations to give up the location of non-Christians so we can slit their throats, and it’s carried live on national TV by presidential order, drop me a line.

It takes a particularly rarified variety of idiot to look at a Jew-hating fascist with a small mustache - and decide that his opponent is the Nazi.

Thanks to Target, Jasperwood now boasts a fully integrated cleaning-fluid regimen. No more the hectic competition of bottles and brands; no more worrying whether a job requires clear Windex All-Purpose Surface Cleaner with Vinegar or the green Multi-Use Windex, or whether the sickly-sweet aroma of 409 Purple Power Disinfectant will banish the beery ghosts from the recycling bin, or combine to make a new super-stink that makes the dog go downstairs and shield his nose. (Sometimes when Jasper is having one of those pitiful dog nightmares, twitching and whimpering, I wonder if he’s not dreaming about some horrible smell he cannot identify, a smell that looms like a big angry shadow he can’t escape no matter how far he runs.)

Today at Target I saw a shelf of cleaning supplies that instantly appealed to my superficial desire for novel marketing paradigms. Simple bottles with clear plastic spray assemblies, deep clever colors. Identical bottles for different house-wide purposes. Brilliant. Naturally, I threw them all in the cart. For the kitchen? Melon. For the bathroom? An evergreen hue. For the shower, a transparent surficant scented with “ylang ylang,” whatever the hell that is. It sounds like the place up which you would have something in abundance. “Trouble? I got that up the yling ylang.”

But what did ylang ylang smell like? A few weeks ago at the store I’d seen two guys trying to figure out which air freshener to buy; they picked out cans, gooshed a misty plume into the air, snorted, coughed, tried another. By the time they were done the entire aisle stunk of Mountain Breeze Fresh Linen Tropical Sunshine Lavender Pinecone Berry Burst Vanilla. (I was tempted to hose the place down with the Neutralizer scent, just to see if it truly had the power to smother such an olfactory fugue.) People looked at these guys as though they were breaching some unspoken rule: you don’t blow these things off in public! Why I never! And of course I huffed well I’ll be to myself as well, but now here I was faced with the prospect of letting yling ylang into my life without knowing what it smelled like. We have a melon / citrus theme going in the bathroom, so I’d hate to introduce, say, yak musk.

I sprayed a little on the back of my hand, like perfume. Sniffed. Nothing. Fine.

Me too! Gnat said. I want to smell.

We go through this every trip - we have to smell all the soaps and dishwashing fluids. It began as a way of pacifying her when she was in a rare grumpy mood, and now it’s the reason we go to Target. We go to smell soap, and press the buttons on the LifeScapes kiosk that plays 30 seconds of new age music from one of 72 indistinguishable albums. (The ultimate LifeScapes CD would be Pachabel’s canon played on the pennywhistle while thunder and the sound of the sea played in the background.) Every other trip Gnat squeezes the bottle too hard, blurts out soap on herself, and I have to go to the pharmacy to get the bottle washed off. And then I buy it, since it would be rude to put it back. I have liquid soap to last through 2009.

I wasn’t thinking, so I handed her the bottle; she pointed the nozzle at her head, grasped the trigger - and was surprised when Daddy came to his senses and jerked it away.

Are the new fluids better than the old? I don’t know, and I don’t care; what counts is that I open the cupboard, see them arrayed in pristine splendor, and I feel good about my life. I’ll never use them. Once the level of fluid goes down, the entire effect is ruined.

I also freed myself from the tyranny of Phillipe Starck’s gaddangdest useless piece-o’-shite pseudo Tupperware. I may have written about this before - God knows the subject is so grindingly trivial it’s tailor-made for this site - but the Starck storage containers were part of that ill-advised line of merchandise Target rolled out last year. The containers were the only items whose hue was not based on diluted urine, and - this is crucial - they nested. I bought three sets. In the end, I used the big ones for dog-food tubs. The others have been sent to the trash bin. They stained; the plastic scratched if you stared at it too long, and the lids ceased to fit. Useless crap.

It was time to crawl back to the arms of Tupperware. Did you know that Tupperware is more expensive than any other container option? Apparently the plastic is infused with ambergris.

Next stop, grocery store. We’re having a small dinner occasion tomorrow, and my wife’s making lasagna. The list was long, and I located every item - then I noticed one thing was missing. Lasagna. I put it in the cart feeling a warm glow: O the kudos I shall receive when I pull these noodles out of my ylang-ylang. And sure enough, my wife that night sighed that she’d have to go back to the store tomorrow, because she’d forgotten to put lasagna noodles on the list. I wish I’d had a trumpet fanfare for the moment: I strode to the cupboard and produced a package of Creamette non-boil lasagna noodles, and yea there was great rejoicing.

It was also over 40 today; the breeze lied about spring, and Gnat played outside in her little house.


So good.

And every so often - say, when you’re standing in the aisle of Target, woolgathering, recalling something you heard on the radio on the way over, or read on the web that morning, and you see headlines: Israel retaliates; Syrian forces push south or Smallpox appears contained, for now and you wonder whether this simple trivial moment will seem unutterably precious in six months, or three - and then you shake it off, and buy Tupperware. Another normal February day.

March is named after which Roman god? Yes, yes. Of course.
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