Shamed - by the Prof! Well, no - but he did note that he couldn’t step away from war, because there was still so much to do, to consider, to warn about. And he’s correct. But his role is different than mine. In the whale that is the blogosphere, he’s the krill filter; I’m the krill. Whether I do or do not write about something won’t change the course of events, or even sway the swayable. He links to works vital to contemporary discourse and gets 100K+ hits on an average day - over the course of a week that whallops the circulation of some venerable journals devoted to steepled-finger rumination. He’d better keep it up. Me, I needed a break.

I guess I can sum it up like this: if I’m not interested in what I have to say I can’t imagine anyone else would be, either. This week my main concerns have been getting Gnat to sleep through the night, taxes, naps. That's it. Any blasts of Indignant Outrage would have been rote and synthetic. As for the war itself, I hit a wall Sunday morning - I was reading the editorial page, and came across a Stern & Determined Essay on the need to continue the peace protests. The first reason given: the war violated international law.

You know, if you paw through the reams of resolutions put forth by the UN, I’m sure you’ll find one that outlaws special jails for children, too. I’m no longer interested in reading the arguments of people who regard a war that empties the children’s jails as a greater evil than the jails themselves. And I don’t share their horror for the word “illegal,” particularly in the context of international law. Is the worst thing about modern-day slavery its illegality? Or the fact that it’s slavery?

Every week produces another discovery from the 9/10 fossil bed, another attempt to insist that nothing changed - the old paradigms, the old arguments, the old hyperboles hanging on the cars of the long postmodern circus train are more relevant now than ever. (The old storybook trains said I think I can I think I can I think I can; the postmodern train says I regard victory as a socially constructed fiction designed to enshrine dominant power paradigms as the only possible reality I regard victory as a socially constructed fiction designed to enshrine dominant power paradigms as the only possible reality) If America sucked before 9/11, it surely super-extra-triple sucks now, what with the nuking of Afghan orphanages and the ceremonial bonfire in the rotunda of the National Archives. “Them foundin’ dock-u-mints sure do burn up nicely fast, eh Cletus?” Ah reckon they does.

These people are irrelevant now - or rather, their veneer of relevance has been stripped away, corroded by their own bilious fantasies. We can argue about the wisdom of going after Syria, but if someone wants to insist it’s because we need Syrian territory for the final leg of Chevron's Afghan pipeline (they bought 90 cases of bolts and hammers from Haliburton in 1974!) I’m not interested in arguing the point. If I’m wrong, then the google-cached pages will evermore unfurl my obstinate blindness to the world. If I’m right, well, then I’m numbered among the millions who did not want to vomit into a wastebasket when the flag went over the statue’s face.

Part of this - most of it, really - is just exhaustion on my part. I haven’t had a true vacation since Gnat was born. I need a week on the beach. I need a week in which I write one thing instead of nine things. A Sunday where I don’t cuss at myself at 12:19 AM because I screwed up the HTML for the matchbook update. Small petty complaints, yes, and all these paper-cuts are self-inflicted. The only gun to my head is held by the mortgage company, and this stuff on your computer screen has nothing to do with that; it’s strictly volunteer work. But I’m suffering the annual spasm, the need to do something else or something more. Today I toyed with an idea I get every spring - kill the Bleat for half a year, replace it with the fictional account of life in an alternate 1958 that has computers, a rudimentary internet, and a thriving space program.

Could happen. Until then, let’s forget our troubles and make fun of Madonna.

She’s never recovered from the spectacular misjudgment known as “Sex,” a book that presumed we wanted to see her groped by Vanilla Ice, rolling with skanks, strapped in some sort of Spanish-Inquisition-designed La-Z-Boy in the dank basement of an S&M club. I think she believed it would liberate the American imagination, and teach the googly-eyed Babbitts who beheld the pictures that sex was something more than they believed it was. These small-souled fools dreamed of love on a beach under a brochure-ready sunset - idiots! Sex is more than beauty, more than pleasure, surely more than love. It's the feel of a dank concrete floor on your back, the wrinkly delights of gerontophilia, and the sublime satisfaction one gets when one is kneeling in front of a camera licking a shoe.

Subsequent career makeovers appeared every 18 months, like a dim comet limping around an indifferent sun. Madonna the Mystic, Madonna the Cowgirl, Madonna the Posh PseudoBrit, and now Madonna the Activist. Of her antiwar “American Life” video I can say nothing, not having seen it, but I can repeat my assertion that tacking “American” on the front of anything is a sure sign of insufferable pretension. It’s Madonna the Mother I find amusing. This quote, courtesy of the indispensable Gawker:

Madonna, who is writing a children's book series based on the Kabbalah, on the state of children's literature: "Now I'm starting to read to my son, but I couldn't believe how vapid and vacant and empty all the stories were. There were like no lessons, just all about princesses and like the beautiful prince arrives and he takes her for his wife and nothing happens, no efforts are made. Nobody asks her what her opinion is, or I didn't see anybody struggling for things. There's like no books about anything."

God Bless the West, that it is so free, so rich, so forgiving, that it awards millions of dollars to someone who thinks “there’s like no books about anything” is an impressive summation of her thesis. Interesting how she’s just finding this out with her son; apparently it didn’t occur to her with her daughter, the child she made with her personal trainer. You suspect that she had a professional Reader to tell tales to the tot while she hit the nightspots. Maybe the kid's nickname is "Beta."

We go through dozens of books here every week, and the princess quotient so far stands at Zero. As in Zed. As in None. The books break down into several categories:

Triumph over uncontrolled defecation. These are the potty training books, in which the heroine gets a new potty, expresses doubts, gives it a whirl, succeeds, buys new big-girl underwear, and lives continently ever after.

Alphabet books. There is royalty present, but never a princess; always a Queen, who is usually quite quiet under her quilt. In my day the Queen was often known to play Quoits, but that game has been lost as a reference. I didn’t know what it was then; had to look it up. (It’s like horseshoes.)

Richard Scarry books. These are gentle tales of rabbits and cats who occasionally need to be spanked. I was startled when Gnat handed me “Naughty Bunny” one day, since I’d read that one as a child. It’s full of good lessons: the little SOB pushes his friend, spills his cereal, writes on the wall, and gets the hairbrush applied to his disobedient ass and sent to bed to cogitate on his sinful nature. In the end he reforms, because - to put it in Madonna terms - “efforts are made.”

“I didn't see anybody struggling for things.” By “things” I believe she doesn’t mean material objects, but the great issues and concepts that make life worth living. You know - things. As in “the things that matter.” As in “we have things to discuss.” I’ll grant that the books available for 2.5 year olds do not grapple with the issues of the day. The characters struggle, but they do so to earn dessert, or to avoid a nap, or to carry the rainbow back to their room for ever and ever and ever. These are the issues - sorry, the things that concern the minds of very small children whose emotional needs are otherwise met.

Tonight I took Gnat up to my room to play while I crunched some video. She started taking down Penguin paperbacks from the shelf and reading them out loud. They all had the same plot and the same conclusion.

Plato’s Republic: the spider went down the spout and they all lived happily ever after. The end.

War and Peace: the spider went down the spout and they all lived happily ever after. The end.

Every novel by Turgenev: the spider went down the spout and they all lived happily ever after. The end.

“The Nun,” by Denis Diderot: the spider went down the spout and they all lived happily ever after. The end.

She handed me the second volume of Les Miserables. “You read it,” she said.

“Le spider, Javert, went down the spout, so to speak, and they all lived happily ever after. Fin.”

“That’s a wonnerful book,” she said. I agreed that it was.

But, hey: I’m shocked at the number of children’s books that accept the same old linear order of the alphabet, and impose the Western notions of vocalized sounds on the unformed ear. I will correct this by writing a series of books that teach the Xhosa alphabet, complete with its wonderful clicking noises, and I will use Babylonian cuneiform to tell the story of a brave princess who gores the prince in his groinal department with a lance dipped in suppurating chicken guts. No more powerless princesses! Up with empowered royalty! Somewhere in Africa a downtrodden woman is pasting a picture of Fergie to her wall and thinking you go, girl! You go!
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