Local programming note: I’ll be on Ian’s show (107.1 FM) at 9 o’clock. I’ll be playing some very cool 1960s commercial music. Chipper and swingin’ and very wordy. The soundtrack to the 60s was not all rock and roll, you know. You’d think today that every piece of music played anywhere from 1965 to 1969 had a sitar and a fuzz guitar, but no. Not hardly.

Apparently my column mug has been Farked, as requested. I’m afraid to look. But I asked for it. I should explain how this came about: when the editor decided to move the column to the front of the section and tweak the format, a new picture was ordered. I have a dread of these things, because they’re so flippin’ presumptuous. Me! Here’s ME! I get my picture in the paper! ME! So I thought, well, let’s put it on the web and let people doodle on it. It’ll keep the spot fresh, provide a nice little hook for the column.

Number of meetings required to sell the idea: 1.

Elapsed time between initial broaching of idea and acceptance by section editor & 2 graphics people: 2 minutes.

No focus groups, no prototypes, no memos, no proposals, no mock-ups, no running-it-past-the-Mads at Gizmodo; done and done. That’s the mark of a good shop. Anyway, it’s been a bit disconcerting to visit sites in my bookmark and find my face staring back at me.

You know, every day the Internet turns out to be everything I’d hoped it would be.

Gnat’s little white boombox died a week ago - it could no longer keep its place on a CD. It would obsessively play the same passage over and over again, and when you’re dealing with Burl Ives singing jimmy Crack Corn, this is not a good situation. Immycrackco immycrackco immycrackco. You can tell the boombox was a few years old, thanks to the pseudo Bondi-blue plastic and iMac stylings. Looked great. Lousy user interface, though. Shiny buttons placed with no particular care, stupid geegaws like the Q Sound Enhancer button (read: loudness). I wouldn’t mourn its passing had it not been for its original role as Birth Room Soother. One of the how-to books my wife bought suggested a boombox in the maternity room, with quiet music that helped you “center.” Something with flutes or aeolian harps or zithers played with feather dusters. I brought some Beethoven. Bring that kid out to the strains of the fifth! I also brought some nebulous new-age stuff I’d purchased in the 80s. It all sounded like music suitable for glacier races. It wasn’t any help at all - it just trickled out from the speakers, like the faraway sighs of a lovely zeppelin slowly deflating. At sunset. Near a lake. With swans.

Less that 600 days after that small mewling creature came out into the world, she was operating the machine herself, slamming in CDs and pushing the buttons. But she didn’t seem to have any particular attachment to it. When I suggested we’d go get a new one, she was indifferent.

We could get the one at Target, I said. The pink one.

Yes. (flash of recognition.) The pink one? At Tawget? With the flowers?

Yes, and what else was on it?

(pause for cogitation) Hello Kitty!

That’s right. The Hello Kitty boombox. So we went to Target, put one in the cart, got a few more necessities, and headed home for lunch and a nap. After the nap, I said, we’ll open up the Hello Kitty boombox.

After the nap she had forgotten about it, and when I brought out the box she scrunched up her shoulders and grinned and said “I can’t believe it!” And then she gave me a big hug and a kiss. So I bought her a car, too. Might as well just cut to the chase, because she’s going to cute one of those out of me someday.

She put in the country-swing version of “Wheels on the Bus” and danced around her room in little-girl bliss. She played it six times.

“You’re a good daddy, daddy.”

That’s nice to know. Doesn’t always feel like it. Sometimes you get a little short; sometimes the exasperation trickles out. Example: I had to fax something to the mortgage office. The document was due yesterday. This could possibly hose the entire deal, which would have made me feel mighty stupid. The only problem was that I don’t have any fax software. I don’t want fax capability. I hate faxes. I hate everything about faxes. I hate getting them; I hate sending them; most of all I hate the machines that stand between you and your task. At the office we have about forty of the beasts, and of course they’re all different. No consistent UI anywhere. They’re all designed by blockheads who hold the end-user in contempt for not being smart enough to build their own fax machine out of twine, a loose eyeglass lens and foil from cigarette packs. Most of the machines give you no feedback; they don’t tell you if the fax went through, whether you dialed correctly, how to start the transmission - nothing. Of course the manual explains everything, but who has time to read it? You just want to send the (#$*%# fax and be done with it.

Anyway. I had a fax program - comes with the Mac - but I got rid of it in one of those ruthless purges to free up every available scrap of space on my hard drive . . . and if I may just digress for a moment, I ran across this observation from someone I greatly admire, David Gelernter. I’ll provide the context in a moment.

The (computer) industry has a problem: Each new PC generation arrives on your desktop equipped with vaster and vaster, emptier and emptier closets for information you don't own and couldn't locate if you did; the per-bit cost of storing data is near zero already, and the question is what to do with all that storage space. And each new PC generation arrives with faster and faster processor chips, which spend more and more of their time doing nothing. Eventually people are likely to notice, and start asking questions. "Why do I need a new computer? What's wrong with the old one? What important thing will the new one do that the old one can't do just as well?" At which point the computer industry as we know it will start falling apart.



My computer came with a 60GB drive, which I filled fairly quickly - 23 GB of music, system software, movies, huge scans, etc. When I’m finished with a movie project I’m down to 2 or 3 free GB, between the raw files, the compressed movies, and the DVD project file. Last year I bought another 60 GB disc (Snowy) for backups; last week I bought a duplicate drive (Cuthbert) for raw video dumps. That’s 180 GB, and I still have to watch it. As for processor speeds, well, spend some time doing a lot of video renders or playing some games, and the virtues of ever-increasing speeds becomes quite apparent. One might argue that video editing isn’t a basic consumer need, and I’d agree - but it will be eventually. When your cellphone can take DV movies you’re going to see PC video editing become much more popular. But that’s another subject.

Or maybe not. Gelernter’s piece is about web newspapers, and how the next great newspaper can be a web-only project. It’s an interesting piece, and his observations on the current state of newspapers on the web is spot on. I was amused to read his descriptions of the new paradigm: Stacks! At first I groaned; not the stacks again. But here the idea fits. As a way of organizing my hard drive, it lacks, but as a vehicle for delivering news, I like it. Go read.

Anyway. So I had to scour the web for a free fax program. Found one. Installed it. Impossible setup; no idea what was going on. In the end it didn’t work - “This unregistered version only sends the first 500 lines.” Well, that’s a great help. As for registering the thing, it appears to have been written in 1996 - it’s OS 9 native, tiny, has Chicago fonts. Say no more. All the while Gnat wants to sit in my lap and type, or wants me to do this or that, or is just generally whining at that pitch toddlers would use 24/7 if they didn’t suspect it would turn Daddy into a fang-toothed WereFather who would eat them whole.

So I got exasperated. I never yell, but let’s just say I enable the Q Sound Enhancer function. Then I went to Kinko’s and faxed the damn thing. Cost a dollar. And I’m still glad I don’t have a fax machine. At least I got to go out and drive around in the warm evening, window down, music loud. Lovely sunset. All pink and white.

Hello Kitty will get around to branding the sunset eventually, I’m sure, but for now it’s nice to see it without any sponsors.

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