Programming note: Ill be on Hugh Hewitts show at 5:20 Central Time; check your local listings. I dont know what my theme music will be, but if its anything close to the Hokey Fargin Pokey, John Denver or Dan Fogelberg hes going to find himself interviewing my good friend Mr. Dial Tone. I have no idea what were going to talk about; hell pitch, Ill swing, and if the bat connects enough times I might be back the next week. Its an honor to be on once, for that matter.
Sunday night; I have the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from watching all the extras on the DVD you rented before you have to give it back. I watched The Recruit, which starred Al Pacino and some guy and some tomboy beanpole and some other guys. Apparently the director used a special De-Pacinofying Gel on Al to keep him from leaving toothmarks in all the scenery. It was nice to see Pacino in somewhat subdued form, since his throttles been stuck open since Devils Advocate.
The Recruit is one of those fun-house CIA movies weve all see a dozen times. Whos real? Whos a mole? Whos turned? You can make a drinking game of it:
1. Someone says were through the looking glass here. Take a shot of Russian vodka.
2. Since the plot involves computers, it will have lots of typing-while-frowning. For each shot of typing-while-frowning, drink beer for the duration of the shot. If the shot ends with the actor dramatically stabbing the ENTER key, you have to finish the beer.
3. My favorite: Movie-GUI. A Movie-GUI is a computer interface that looks nothing like any computer youve ever seen. For example, if you hack into the CIA mainframe, which can be done by typing extra fast and scowling double-hard, you will know you are successful when your desktop wallpaper is replaced by the CIA logo, and your laptop is displaying text with fonts you didnt install. Its hard to incorporate the Movie-GUI into the drinking game, since most people would expire of alcohol poisoning by the time the movie concluded.
I also watched 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. New restored widescreen Technicolor Cinemescope etc. version. Having only seen a scratchy pan-and-scan on TV as a kid, I was curious what the movie really looked like. Oy. Its just sublime. The FX are impressive 50 years later, which says something - and the Making of featurette shows you just how low-tech some of this stuff was by modern standards. The featurette also has an alarming interview with Kirk Douglas, filmed shortly after his death. (Not a typo.) One of the most charming interviews is with the director himself, who was the son of Disney rival Max Fleischer. Hes surrounded by his fathers creations: Betty Boop, Bosco, that horrid clown-thing. Im dead certain he made that a requirement for the interview. Oh sure, Ill be happy to do it, but I want Betty in the picture. And so Ms. Boop appears in a Disney product.
The more I learn about the Disney studio, the more I admire it - at least up until the point where it turned into scratchy dreck like the Aristocats et al. Id like to read a bio of Walt, even though I gather from the reviews of such bios that he was a chain-smoking SOB whose heels were constantly stained with the hearts and souls of the gentle men who toiled in obscurity. Thats probably an exaggeration. But theres a lot of hagiography in these interviews, too - one fellow, describing how Nemos sub was atomic powered, noted that Walt came up with that idea before anyone else had thought of using nuclear energy in a sub. Please. This was 1952. People thought nuclear energy would be powering hula-hoops in a few years. A visionary? Yes. A canny observer of talent, a leader of men? Yes. But he didnt invent the wheel. He didnt even draw it.
But give him his due. My child isnt yet three. And she recognizes his signature.
For years - decades, perhaps - every package of chopsticks Ive ever seen around here has come in the same red wrapper. There are five Chinese characters, and Ive no idea what they mean. Lucky Dragon Five Star Buffet, maybe, since that would cover about 79% of all Chinese restaurant names around here. Perhaps they say We Spit on the Body of Chinese Gordon, Imperialist! Who knows. But today I read the tiny English type for the first time:
Welcome to Chinese Restaurant.
please try your Nice Chinese Food with Chopstick
the traditional and typical of Chinese glorious history.
Glorious and cultural are in a different typeface than the rest of the words, suggesting someone went back and fixed the original.
"Wassat?" croaked Gnat. She has a cold, or allergies, and has had a rasp that makes Susanne Pleshette sound like Truman Capote.
Its a chopstick, I said.
Leb me hab chobstig.
I gave her two.
Was id do?
"Its for picking up your food so you can eat it."
She took a chobstig in each hand and attempted to pick up her chicken - which was of course on a skewer. It was like watching someone try to bob for apples while wearing a motorcycle helmet.
Dey don worg, Daddee.
No, they dont.
"No, they arent broken, honey. They are merely traditional and typical of Chinese glorious history."
I could have these conversations all day. And I think if I couldnt have them anymore I couldnt go on living. To put it another way - Are you as bad as me? Take this simple test:
You call home to see what to get for takeout. No one answers. Hmm. They should have been home an hour ago. Do you:
1. Figure theyll be home by the time you get there
2. Start imagining a sequence of events that ends with you finishing your will, surrounding yourself with pictures of your departed loved ones, swallowing 89 barbiturate tablets and putting a plastic bag over your head
If you answered 2, you are as bad as me. I tend to get . . . unhinged when wife & child are very very late, and I cant raise them. Theyd left at two for a bike ride; back in two hours, my wife said. To me that means 120 minutes, each composed exactly of 60 seconds. To my wife, and any other sensible person, it means that indefinable allotment of time thats longer than an hour but shorter than the entire afternoon. Still, I dont start to sweat when minute 121 has elapsed and Ive not seen them through the spyglass or the thermal monitors. In fact I often dont notice theyre late until theyre really late. Then the sequence starts: I hope nothings happened becomes I suspect something happens becomes I know for certain that they both fell off a bridge into the Mississippi, and this leads to horrible conjectures. How long will it take to find them?
Heres your credit card, says the clerk whos ringing up your order.
At least its not winter, you reply. Theyll find the bodies faster.
By now youre resigned to the worst. You might as well pick up a pack of Marlboros on the way home. Start smoking again. Whats the point. Youll have nothing to live for. Put your head in the oven . . . no, its electric. Great. Local man found dead. Roasticide suspected.
But then you get mad. Mad, somehow, that your wife was late, and didnt get in touch with you by skywriter or mental telepathy.
This all sounds rather operatic, I know, but really - a four-and-a-half hour bike ride is a bit much, and I was worried. Id called home, left messages on the machine, told her to call when she got it. Finally I left a message that said Dont call, Im turning off my phone, the sound of it not ringing is driving me batty; Ill just come home now with the curry and hope there arent cop cars in the driveway. On the way home I thought, well, maybe theyve been out in the backyard for the last hour.
I got home. The bike was in the garage. Theyd been in the backyard for the last hour.
At one point my wife had gone inside, seen the caller ID blinking, figured it was me, and that was that. But after an hour had passed - an hour after my note said Id be home - she said shed started to get worried, and -
Wait a minute. You were worried?
"You hadnt left a message."
I left six! Look, the answering machines blinking.
"Well, theres a long recording from a telemarketer on there and I didnt have the patience to sit through it."
So now were arguing about this, but then it occurred to me that we had both been worried about the other, and there was no reason to argue. So I gave everyone a hug. I thought you were in the river, I said.
Silly Daddy, said Gnat. Were not in the riber.
And so the day ended well. We were all together, no one was in the riber, and I had the Chinese take-out.
Which was horrible. Jasper got to eat the cast-off chicken. Hes now in the backyard eating grass to calm his stomach. Gnats asleep; my wife is ready to head off to slumber as well, and Im going down to watch the second season of The Wire. Good week ahead - and yes, I know Id promised some new site additions. Theyre coming. I ripped up everything because I stumbled on a cache of true horrors: 1970s Saturday morning cartoon publicity handouts. Look for them later this week.
Hey, its June! Lets all hit the road in swank autos and stay at orange-roofed chain motels. Summer's begun. It's going to be a good one.