Blogging continues until further notice. I have to write a column at home tonight. I have to finish another column this morning. I have Gnat all day until 6:30 or so. You try writing three pieces with a small human hanging on your leg. I know I will.

8:12 AM House rule: we are going to finish all these boxes of cereal before I buy any more. And yes, that includes the box of Total Brown Oats and Honey I bought for 99 cents a month ago. I’m serious.

9:04 AM I wanted to order some coasters from Marshall Fields. They’re Real Actual Genuine 78 RPM record filets, lacquered to protect their historic label-art from the corrupting effects of your drink. I’d seen them before in the Signals catalogue - that’s the excruciatingly yupped-up folio of goods for the Woebegon / PBS set. Lots of boxed sets of Miss Marple, Rumpole, and dusty 80s Britcoms, and mugs embossed with signature phrases from the shows. (I want a Royale Family mug that says simply “bluedy tossers” or “moi arse.”) I’d always meant to order the coasters, but like everything else I liked in the Signals catalogue, I never got around to it. Then the fates aligned. There I was at the kitchen table with the Marshall Fields catalogue; the laptop was connected, and the catalogue cover said “fields.com” - let’s go.

Fields instantly redirects you to Target.com, which is very telling. Target has become the brand. Old and busted: venerable retailer with a name that spans three centuries. New hauteness: canny mid-market store that sprinkles hipness over the most banal purchases. The page looks familiar - why, the items are rated by the consumers with little stars . . . hmm. Looks much like Amazon’s page. Ah well: learn from the masters, I guess.

Then you try to set up an account, and you discover The Killer Option: import your Amazon preferences. With one click (I assume the non-hyphenated version of that concept is still in the public domain) you have bypassed the boring task of inputting data into a bunch of fields. It imports your Amazon address book, your payment options. Brilliant.


Ever looked at the word non-hyphenated? It has a hyphen!


10:36 AM Somewhere in America the famous syndicated political columnist gives his piece one last read. He chuckles at that turn of phrase in the third graf - Iraq and a hard place, indeed! - and nods with approval at the final words of caution that close the piece. This one won’t win the Pulitzer, but it doesn’t have to. That’s not the point. It makes some Troubling Observations; it flatters the State Department; it provided one old friend with some payback (not that anyone but the intended victim and a handful of associates will notice) and it reminded the Administration once again that it ignores the intellectuals of Old Washington at its peril.

He hits the SEND button - his secretary labeled it as such for him - and considers lunch. The lunch that follows the filing of a column was the best part of the week. If only Harvey’s was still open. It was always so dark at Harvey’s. Dark as old scotch.

Here in America, the not-famous syndicated political columnist has just finished the week’s piece - good thing, because the fridge needs defrosting. Now. Once again, the drain in the freezer has become blocked. The drain was specially designed by industrial experts to be blocked by anything the diameter of a pea. Like, for example, a pea. The bottom of the fridge is slanted so any fallen pea tumbles right into the hole. Then the ice shelf builds, trapping corn, flecks of nuts, runty fries. Three months later the water pools beneath the fridge, alerting you to the fact that something’s hosed. So I had to move everything to the auxiliary freezer and let the thing melt. Man, I’m livin’ right: only took four trips. Everything was up to date - no 2/3ds-empty french fry bags in need of consolidation, no boxes of fish sticks with one lone stick left. But I did find some pork chops whose label said “use or freeze before 8/ 24 / 01.” That was rather disconcerting. For many reasons. It’s one thing to find a magazine left over from the halcyon, sharks-attacked-Chandra-Levy summer of 01, but to find meat that was fresh when Atta walked the earth is just wrong. Out it went.

I have finished the morning sweeping and cleaning, except for the appliances. I have marinated the pork in the tequila-lime sauce. I have finished the coffee. Now we go upstairs for the second portion of the morning. I’ll shoot the column up to the Mainframe in the studio, and plunk away at the thing while doing more dusting. But first I have to read her a book about a pig who doesn’t want to share his ball, but soon learns that it is good to share. The cover says this series of books is set in a world “familiar to your toddler” - yeah, right. We have all those talking, sharing pigs in the back yard playing soccer; she’ll take an instant shine to this tale.

1:05 PM If ever I meet the people who put together the Rock ‘n Play videotape, I’ll have a few questions about Alphabet Al - a strange, smooth sexless creature who makes Elton John in a feather boa look like Randy Savage draped with human intestines. I have memorized this tape. U words are just great, say these words and then we’ll jam. Umbrella, ukulele, Uncle Sam! W words are top notch - watermelon, windmill and a watch! Kill me now.

Okay, the column’s in. Now she has to go down for a nap. We tried this after noon. It didn’t go well.

1:40 PM It’s still not going well. I hear little feet hit the floor upstairs; I start up the stairs, and hear the feet scurrying back to bed. By the time I get to her room she’s making fake snoring sounds. I’m raising an actress. Or a sociopath. And the difference is? Discuss.

2:20 PM As long as I’m handing out advice for talk-radio callers:

1. Don’t ask the host how he or she is doing. I never minded when a caller asked me, because I ran the kind of show where that could actually be a topic. But serious hosts with one eye on the clock don’t need that sort of throat-clearing. The best caller gets right to it. You’ll get more time to speak - they’ll generally let you roll a while if you demonstrate you’re a good caller.

And don’t screw up by saying “hello? Are you there?” when you’ve been allowed to speak for 30 seconds uninterrupted. He’s there. If he isn’t, you’ll know about it in a second or two anyway. Your goal as a caller is to say goodbye before the host does.

2. Sneering sounds really bad on the radio. If the audience senses fourteen years of fury behind your call, then the call becomes about you and your pathetic problems. If you’re calling right-wing radio, be aware that the “selected not elected” line does not strike the host or the audience as a blinding insight.

3. If you met the host on a plane a year ago, or a reception six months ago, do not embarrass everyone by bringing it up. Unless you did something memorable, such as driving your heel into his foot while shouting I AM THE VENGEANCE OF ASHERON AND ALL HIS MINIONS the host probably won’t remember who you are. It’s nothing personal. (Unless it is.)

3:07 PM The second “Flint” movie is on right now. It’s not very good. Coburn, however, is still cool; I’d have loved to see him as the Vulture in a Spider-Man movie. But that would mean that A) he’d have to be alive and B) he’d have to be younger, which would have made it impossible for him to do those iconic 60s roles. Of course, even if he was younger, he’d still be old. That’s the odd thing about pop culture - it freezes these guys, locks them in. We all expect Harrison Ford to be able to carry off Indiana Jones #4 even though he’ll be five years past his eligibility for seniors specials at Denny’s. Doesn’t mean he cannot swash or buckle or both, but it will require additional suspension of disbelief, particularly if he has a fistfight with some muscled-up 20-year old. Maybe he’ll just cut to the chase and machinegun everyone in the next movie. Oh, he’d love to use the whip, but the roomytism’s acting up something fierce.

5:55 PM En route to the office Gnat piped up from the back seat: “First there’s the woman. Then there’s fire. Then bonking bonking bonking.”

“And where was this, honey?” I said cautiously.

“Mickey. Mickey an’ Goofy and Donnal, when they were firemen.”

Oh. Right. That’s the end of the cartoon - the trio rescues Clarabell (the Woman) from the fire; she slides down a ladder, the trio falls into her bathtub, and she beats each one severely for being Mashers. We discussed the plot of her favorite cartoons, and they all boiled down to the same procession: something happy, something scary, bonking on the head, and everyone safe. Hell, that’s “War and Peace.” That’s “Star Trek: Nemesis.” That’s “In Like Flint.” Start with happiness and just add bonking.

11:03 PM Finished the Fence column. Three for three. I’m done. One or two emails and I’m done keyboarding for at least 9 hours. I got the “Andromeda Strain” DVD today and I’m keen to watch it. More on that tomorrow.

Can’t wait, can you? Didn’t think so.

(Note: no Thu bleat; proceed to Friday.)

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