It’s late; it’s so very late. TiVo snared a Fawlty Towers for me, and I’d really like to watch it. So I’m not inclined to edit tonight’s blather for clarity. Not that I spend an hour every night taking the tweezer to every line - obviously not. But tonight I’m just going to upload and shut down and soak in some Cleese. Forgiven? Thanks for the indulgence.

An autopilot day. Up. Coffee. Mrgh. Consult cereal drawer: dregs. There are ten boxes of cereal, but six are unopened. I laid down the law last week: we’re going to finish these cereals before we open more, by Crom! Of course, since I do the grocery shopping, I had only myself to blame for all these extra boxes . . . belay that, I have my child to blame. There were three boxes of juvenile cereals, and she’d nixed each one. Mickey Mouse Magic cereal tasted like sugar-frosted rodent droppings; the Pooh cereal did not appeal to her palate, and the Life cereal she’d requested (it has Maisy on the box, which was just cruel - just as little kids love Maisy, they regard Life as some cruel cereal joke. And what an odd name for a cereal, anyway. Life! It’s a cereal, a magazine, and an brief shining interlude of sorrow and joy intertwined like a rope whose strands run through your hand at an ever faster pace. And it’s also a board game.) I ate the Magic cereal, because someone has to. The marshmallows give the milk the whitish-blue tint of an asphyxiated albino.

More coffee, check the web, play with Gnat. She has a new game, and she’s already mastered it. You’re supposed to help all the Pooh characters make presents for Eeyore. There’s much Piglet, of course, and I'm sure you’re wondering if my Star Trek theory of the other day applies to Pooh. Is there a Trek connection? Of course: the guy who voiced Piglet played the little bald serial killer in the TOS ep “Wolf in the Fold.” If Piglet ever started shouting REDJACK REDJACK EVERYBODY DIE I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact I’d almost be relieved: he has shown his face at last. Gnat took a day to master the interface here, something that just amazes me. There’s no tutorial. But I watched her shut down the game by clicking on the X in the corner; this brought up a snarky beaver who asked if you really wanted to leave. She clicked the word YES. She's not yet three.

Oh Lord. iTunes is set on shuffle-play, and it just belched up “Emotion” by the BeeGees. Yes, I have some BeeGees. I needed “You Should Be Dancing” and “Stayin’ Alive” for a project so I bought a greatest hits compilation. There are millions, if not billions of women for whom “Emotion” brings back wonderful memories of being young and besotted, of fluttery notions of love blooming in a head crowned with a Dorothy-Hamill haircut; it’s the ultimate disco-era slow dance number. For me it brings back memories of closing the bar. Of cleaning out the pool-table area, putting up the chairs, stacking the popcorn baskets. Every night ended with the same grim hit parade; every night some lovelorn lass played “Emotion,” and some guy played “Stop Dragging my Heart Around” by Tom Petty, and some unknown patron played “The Thrill is Gone” by B. B. King. Never knew who. I would always look around the bar and see if someone was making a painful blues face during the solo, but the mugs at the rail were either animated by conversation or frozen in a last-call deathmask.

Let’s hit NEXT and see what shuffle-play gives us.

“Toot-toot-tootsie,” by Al Jolson. NEXT.
Cello Concerto, Dvorak, movement #3. NEXT.
“Beat on the Brat,” the Ramones. NEXT.
“An American in Paris,” piano version, played by Gershwin himself. Ahh.

Anyway. We finished with the game, read some books, went upstairs to get dressed. She wanted to get dressed all by herself, and she did it: first time getting a shirt on. Great rejoicing. Made me wish I’d installed a ticker-tape dispenser in her room for these moments. Really: that was her daily highlight and mine, too. Big hugs and wide smiles. Off to her Nana’s; hit the drive-through for circular beef, off to the office. Wrote a column. Back up the highway. Home; make supper. Indian chicken. Finally Gnat agreed to try some spiced chickpeas. Suspicious face yields to surprise and delight. When she was done she washed her own face in the sink and dried it with a towel.

Wife returns. I dressed myself! Gnat said. And I had chickpeas! And I washed my face! Okay, I’d coached her. I’d also told her to tell Mommy she beat the third level of the Pooh game, but she didn’t seem to think that was important.


Allow me two small notes of Mac pride here. At work when I put my PC down - in the sense that one “puts down” a horse with a busted leg - I do the usual start menu -> shut down -> wait while some network-distributed widget hangs, seizes up and sprays error reports -> turn off power routine. When I put my Mac to sleep - in the sense that I lovingly place my daughter in her warm soft bed - I simply pass my thumb over the glowing light on the rectangular monitor. It’s just cool. Period. I love doing this in front of PC advocates, too - the geekier they are, the more they’re likely to be PC-or-death types, and the more likely the simple thumb-swipe makes them chew their tongue in frustration. Because it’s just cool.

But that’s an intangible. Today’s Wall Street Journal had a story on syncing PCs and cellphones. Mossberg reviewed three products.

SnapSync. Price: $29.99, plus $29.99 for the cable.

MightyPhone. Price: $39.95 a year; $69.95 for first year of MightyPhone PRO

iSync by Apple. Price: Free.

Some serious blogcest here. An entry at volokh took issue with the comments Prof. Volokh wrote about something I wrote a few days ago. (She probably wrote to you about it too, which you’d know if you’d check your dang mail - Ed) (Do you think Kaus wished he’d copyrighted these parenthetical interjections from imaginary editors who are really just the author’s own critical voice making a nagging remark that defuses objections by anticipating them? - Ed) My comments on “the Handmaid’s Tale” speculated about the reaction to a novel that postulated a left-wing version of Atwood’s dystopia - specifically, a novel about a dissident in an ecologically despoiled society run by homosexuals. The letter-writer noted that there actually was such a book, “The Wanting Seed” by Anthony Burgess. Oh, I could roll my eyes and say yes yes yes of course, but that was 45 years ago; I’m talking about the current political climate, which would not welcome such a novel. But I have to be honest - I completely forgot about “The Wanting Seed.”

It’s one of Burgess’ three “sci-fi” novels. (Well, three and a half, if you want to be picky. One-third of “End of the World News” was a novelization of his screenplay for a remake of “When Worlds Collide.”) “Seed” was written during the author’s brain-tumor period. Diagnosed with a deathly noggin-stone, Burgess sat down and wrote as much as he could to provide his widow with some royalties. (He lived. His wife, however, did not - a grim Burgessian irony.) The books he wrote in the first four years of the 1960s are astonishing novels, and if ever the dead hand of cant releases its grasp on the academic windpipe he’ll be revived and studied as one of the finest authors of the English language. A brilliant mind, a brilliant stylist, and one of the great comic writers of the postwar era. If some angel appears to me and tells me I will spend eternity in heaven shining his shoes, I will weep with gratitude.

“Wanting Seed” was written in 1960 (it was written before Orange, and published afterwards.) As a work of fiction, it’s less successful than Clockwork Orange - it lacks CO’s structural balance, compelling antihero and brilliant language. (Think of it: the first editions of CO didn’t have a glossary, so you were left to use your own rassoodock to figure out what the slovos meant.) “Wanting Seed” takes its politics from a long-standing Burgessian fascination: the dynamic between the teachings of St. Augustine and the Pelagian heresy. To boil it way down: the Augustinian view believes that man is inherently sinful. The Pelagian heresy, if I remember it, viewed Man as perfect, since Man was God’s creation. Sin was an externality we could resist; we were in charge of our own salvation. Pay no attention to that man up on the cross! Grace was a DYI thing. (Googling around, I see I’m not far off.)

So what does this have to do with politics, let alone a dystopian novel? Anyone? Anyone besides Lisa? Simple: in this argument, Burgess saw the two poles of political philosophy at work in the West, and beyond. Augustinian philosophy, which saw man as flawed and sinful and basically hosed when it came to perfectibility in this mortal plain, was the conservative view. Pelagius was liberalism: our nature is not only perfectible, we can perfect ourselves here and now. Burgess saw governments as shifting back and forth between the two - the excesses of one would push people to embrace the other, and vice versa, and so on. In a typical Joycean tic he called them gusphase and pelphase. “Wanting Seed” takes place during the end of a pelphase. Homosexuality is indeed encouraged by the state (the subway posters say “It’s sapiens to be homo!” which would make a much more clever slogan than “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”)

In the end the main character discovers that the war the state is fighting is actually a means to burn off the surplus population and feed the survivors. Soldiers are killed in phony battles, and the bodies processed for food. (See also Heston, Charlton, famous shouted last lines of) This is the least interesting part of the book, if you ask me, and it’s one of the reasons “Seed” isn’t in the top five of the canon - the idea of war as a means of destroying the fruit of production is a lift from "1984," of course. But it does lay out the ideas that pop up throughout his work, and as such is necessary reading to understand his oeuvre.

The world of Clockwork Orange, incidentally, is Pelagian-a-go-go. The world that allows Alex to flourish is Mondo Pelagius Xreme. And I think Burgess’ attitudes toward the Pelagians is clear: kiss my sharries, you bolshy statists. It’s amusing - when I was young, I thought he was a liberal. Now I think he wasn’t. What this means is that he was, when all was said and done, simply right.