Last day of blogging. Or not - this is actually fun. Writing during the day means the nights are free for other things. Imagine that.

7:59 AM Consumer alert: both Gnat and myself have tried the new Quaker Oat “Oatmeal & Fruit” pseudo Pop-Tart, and I believe we have an answer to that age-old question: what happens to shingles that don’t pass quality control at the factory? They coat them with frosting, that’s what.

8:40 AM The Apple MP3 player now lets you assign cover art to your tracks. Click on a song, and a tiny picture of the cover pops up. Very cool - but you have to add the art yourself. This means I must now hunt down the art for everything I’ve ripped, and plug it into the program. Oh, but you say, you don’t have to. There’s nothing that requires you to do this.

Yes there is. I think it’s obvious by now I am possessed by an anal-retentive demon. (I don’t know his name. Feyligsungur, perhaps.) And it gets worse: I am somewhat anal-retentive myself, but in a different way. Hence our conversations are excruciating. I look at the bookshelf, and I hear him. His voice is soft and insinuating, with a gravely note of menace.

Rearrange the books, whispers a voice in my head. Rearrange them by height.

I drive my fists into my temples. No! They have to be ordered by genre, author, and date!

But that looks so ugly. So rough. So . . . random and unplanned. Order them by height. Do it. Do it now.

I won’t! I won’t! Leave me alone or I’ll turn the spines towards the wall!

He usually goes away for a while then.

So I’m running up and down the internet looking for album art, finding a few sites built with Microsoft Butt-Ugly Webpage Generator, sites devoted entirely to the covers of Eagles band-member solo projects (your one-stop Don Felder resource!) or British-only Queensryche EPs. I despaired of finding the art for all those CDs I bought on Amazon . . . oh. Right. D’oh.

So I go to Amazon and call up everything I’ve ordered. Test: can I drag the art from the browser directly into the album-art pane in iTunes? Yes. But now we have another dilemma. The small picture of a CD on an Amazon page does not fit the entire pane in the iTunes album art window. You click on the “see larger image” link and you get, well, a larger image. This image fills the pane entirely. Difference of 8kb vs 24Kb - it all adds up, but bitching about that is like crossing the street to pick up a penny. The small pictures, however, provide a nice white border that provides a visual buffer as you scroll down the list. But I prefer the bigger pictures.

The white space is more elegant, the voice says.

I know, I KNOW, but some of the pictures have tiny Amazon-added details that describe the percentage you’re saving from the retail price. You see everything - cannot you see this?

I see a little man too scared to Photoshop out the Amazon details.

I WON’T DO IT! I will NOT spend a night Photoshopping tiny album covers to provide a consistent white border in the art pane! You can’t make me!

Oh but I can.

(I hear the sound downstairs of everything being moved around in the kitchen cabinets, of olive oils being rearranged with no regard to level of purity, cans reordered in such a way that their expiration dates cannot be inferred by visual inspection)

STOP. Whatever you say.

I need a slovenly Jack-Krugman-style priest to come over and exorcize this creature. He won’t have to do the water-sprinkling or the Latin shouting. Just let him put his feet on the table and spill cigar ashes on his robe. That’ll send the demon fleeing.

I won't flee. Someone has to clean up later.

9:46 AM Watched part of “The Andromeda Strain” DVD last night. I know I wrote about this movie in a previous bleat, so I’m not going to repeat myself; I fear it’s already approaching Hardy Perennial status. I’m certain I said something about the shiny post- “2001 Space Odyssey” art design. The future never looked better. Of course, at the time the movie was made it was set in the very near future - 10, 12 months from the release date of the picture. It suggested that these neato underground facilities with shiny aluminum labs already existed, which was a tremendously alluring notion to a 13 year old boy.

“I feel bad for the taxpayer,” one character jokes as they toss their garments into the flame.”

“Don’t,” says Dr. Stone. “They’re paper.”

“Feels like cloth!”

“New process,” says Stone.

That sums it up - New Process. There would always be a New Process. Our future would be full of New Processes.

And it was - just not in the ways we expected. And thank God; if we did have paper clothes, we would be browbeaten into recycling them. You want people to put underwear out in a paper sack on the boulevard every other Thursday? Yes? Then you are a dog, and you have no business reading this.

11:11 AM Mike at Cold Fury sent us all to Tiny Little Lies (A funny site, as CF advertised) - specifically, to this entry:

ryan at Arguing With Signposts is going nuts with Photoshop. I especially enjoyed the Glenn Reynolds/James Lileks grudge match promo shots. Web titans Reynolds and Lileks have actually snipped at each other in his comments.

Just so you know, I have no memory of doing that. I can’t find the relevant thread, but if it’s recent I’m pretty sure it’s not me. I don’t comment a lot, but I do wade into the threads from time to time for that old-time Usenet flavor. I certainly wouldn’t snipe at the Prof, whose page I visit several times a day in the hopes I will someday find some opinion with which I really, truly, completely disagree. I owe him about a billion pageviews, too. If I ever meet the guy I'm just going to give him a fifty-dollar bill as a downpayment.

(note - I'd link to those images but I can't get it to work. The URL comes up hosed; apologies.)

11:54 AM Reading a New Yorker story about Saddam’s doctor. Fascinating reading. One of the secondary characters is described in a way that heats my heart-cockles: “Khairi resembles the Ruritanian nobles and government ministers depicted in Herge’s Tintin books. He is tall and corpulent, but not fat, and has a thick, old-fashioned mustache.”

It’s the thin ones with the monocles you had to worry about. Especially if they also had a dueling scar.

The article ends with a woebegone quote from the doctor: “It is strange how a system can become so bad that no one, not a single person, can change it.”

But in a way, one did.

4:39 PM When you’re talking to a perfectly nice couple at the park, and Basic H comes up, it changes things. You suspect that Amway is about to be introduced. It’s a hink you can’t shake. You feel like you did when you were in college at a party full of people you didn’t know, and you were talking to this nice but somehow different couple, and you had the feeling they were going to propose a three-way before the night was out.

7:59 PM As i’ve mentioned before, I enjoy listening to Hugh Hewitt. Yes, it’s one of those TALK RADIO shows you read so much about, but it doesn’t anger up the blood like so many rant-a-thons. Some people like to listen to a show that sounds like Vulcan hammering his anvil for three straight hours, but I’m past that. Hugh is a cheerful reasonable fellow, and that winnows out the audience members who want to call up and insist that Clinton killed Vince Foster in the Conservatory with the lead pipe. Most of the callers are cheerful as well. Even when everyone’s got their dander up, they don’t sound ready to drive into a ditch because their spittle has obscured the windshield. This is one of the reasons I listen to the show and do not listen to, say, Michael Savage, who seems to be under contractual obligation to shout RED DIAPER DOPER BABY every 17 seconds.

Hugh is also aware of this blogosphere, this thing of ours, and draws from its ranks for guests. You’ll hear Dr. Joshua Marshall, Prof. E. Volokh. Peter Beinart - the editor of the New Republic and the author of the TRB column - is frequently a guest as well. (
Side note: what does TRB stand for, anyway? Back when Dick Strout was writing the thing, I seem to remember a theory that it stood for “The Rover Boys” - that was a series of ripping yarns about some brave scrappy lads, written for young men. They were popular in the early decades of the 20th century. Perhaps the New Republic guys jokingly referred to themselves as “the Rover Boys,” much as guys in the 70s working the investigative beat of a newspaper might call themselves the Hardy Boys. This series was parodied in a famous 1942 Chuck Jones-directed cartoon about “the Dover Boys.” In ‘42 people would have got the joke, but few do now. I wonder if the meaning of “TRB” is handed to the new writer in some sort of secret ceremony.) And Hugh quotes the occasional Bleat, which is always a surprise. I’m usually making dinner, and all of a sudden some guy in California is reading something I wrote at the kitchen table at 11 o’clock last night.

I also admire his producer’s collection of bumper music - not because it’s good. Lord, no. But it’s deep. He can find a tune for any topic. If they’re going to talk about Sen. Evan Bayh, he’ll come back with “Indiana Wants Me.”

So tonight they come out of a break with Procul Harem’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” a tune I absolutely hate. Listening to that thing is like having someone pull fishing line out of your urethra. A knotted fishing line. And who does he dedicate it to? ME. Because yesterday’s Bleat was short & snarly, he figured I needed cheering up. I needed to hear “my favorite songs.” Next break: The Carpenters, “one of Lileks’ favorites. We’re playing nothing but his favorites.” Next break: John Denver.

This is slander on a national scale. This cannot stand. I call the show, and attempt to save my good name. Hugh’s kind enough to keep me on the whole segment, ask some questions about this site, etc. Lots of fun.

What the audience could not possibly know was that I was absolutely, completely, soaking wet. Crown to toe, sopped. When I called I was outside with the cordless phone. Gnat turned on the garden hose a few minutes before I went on and started spraying me with ice-cold water, laughing her little head off. I was pinned down - if I moved out of range of the water I’d move out of range of the phone. I didn’t want to go inside, because she’d start shouting COME BACK DADDEE, which would set Jasper Dog barking, and there I’d be on national radio with a screaming child and an angry mutt. Bedlam. So I dodged the water as best as I could, listening to the phone, waiting for the countdown. The Hugh Hewitt Show on the Salem Broadcast Network returns from break in 1 minute, 30 seconds. And so forth. At the fifteen-second cue I shouted NATALIE, GO PICK DADDY SOME FLOWERS. She dropped the hose, ran to the corner of the yard to gather dandelions. I bolted inside, grabbed a rawhide stick from the drawer and tossed it to the dog, taking him out for the duration. Annnnnd you’re on.

If I sounded like I was wearing wet underwear, America, well, I was wearing wet underwear.

Then I went back outside and resumed the garden-hose battle. If it makes her happy, it makes me happy. And she’s been happy all day.

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