Today - Pottery Barn horrors; Easy Rawlins & Oscar; Bush = Saddam pt. 93,458

Some time this week - Tuesday afternoon, perhaps; maybe Thursday morning - the Pottery Barn Kids executive in charge of choosing the manufacturer for the keyboard caddy for the new line of children's desk-sets will suspect that his career might well be over. He might hear the first few complaints Monday - but that’s not unusual with a new product. There may be a stack of complaints by Tuesday, though - and from stores across the land, which ain't good. Wednesday they just might call a meeting about the problem. There will be a phone conference from various territories. No one will make eye contact when that meeting's done, because everyone will be thinking about their own arse at that point. Thursday morning the exec will greet the dawn a haggard man, having spent the night watching the ceiling fan turn around, and around, and around. What next? What now? Is this the way it ends? All because of a stupid little metal slider didn’t pop in place nice and easy? All because people had to fight with the thing to get the holes to line up? Is that all it takes for a man’s career to stall and circle down?

But he’ll have to go in to work. If he doesn’t go in today he might as well never go in again.

When he gets in, his secretary tells him that his boss wants to see him as soon as he’s in. And the boss has already been in since seven, dealing with . . . with it.

My wife finally bought a desk for her studio. You can’t get a real office unless you have a home office, or something like that. She found the perfect desk at Pottery Barn Kids, which goes to show you how large American children are these days. I schlepped the parts home on Saturday, and started knocking it together Sunday afternoon. Gnat helped, which is to say she took the various screws and washers and hit them around the bedroom. I have put together enough furniture to know two things:

a) Nothing ever lines up perfectly, and

b) the CEOs of these companies never, ever put these things together themselves. If I was king of the forrrrest, that would be decree number one: if you can’t put it together without cursing the nameless Finn-drone who designed the thing, you can’t sell it.

The keyboard caddy is a little shelf that holds your typeulating device; it pulls out on little metal wheels. It attaches to the underside of the desk via four metal brackets, which locked in place when a small protruding nodule slipped into a matching groove. Unfortunately, when they locked in place the unit was upside down. If you wanted to use the thing properly, the brackets would have to be rotated 180 degrees - and in this position, only two of them snapped into place. The others splayed out like clown feet.

Back to the store. I took the shelf with me, explained the problem. There was only one satisfactory conclusion - a replacement. I didn’t say that at first, preferring to let them make a voluntary deposit in the Good Will account. And they did, right away. Whew. Be back in a minute! the clerk said.

Half an hour passes. Gnat plays. I spend my time studying the customers. They’re all comfortable. The women in this room spend more on pedicures per month than I spend on clothing in a year. Eventually the clerk returns. She has a replacement, but it has the same problem - half the brackets didn’t snap into place. She’d opened up four sets, and they all had the same problem. Uh oh.

Did it work in the end? Yes, it did. I had to force it into place. Maybe they assume we’ll all force them into place, but you don’t feel right when you do that. I registered my dissatisfaction. I'm sure I'm not alone. I wonder who'll get demoted for this. We'll never know his name; we'll never know the name of the factory supervisor in Mexico who shrugged and let the assembly line crank out the pieces. There's never a phone number you can call and bark out your displeasure. So let's just call the offender Bob Jorgenson. HEY BOB!



Incidentally - Saturday while at the same little mall, I ordered some takeout, paid for it, wandered around for a while in the stores I love to hate, and vice versa. Everything about Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and Williams-Sonoma drives me nuts, and I want everything they have. Damdnest thing. I returned 20 minutes later. The clerk put up the food, and said “That’ll be $19.38.” I said I’d already paid. She got one of those uh-oh, it’s a he-said-she-said situation. How do you prove you’d paid? Ah hah: I remembered that I’d changed clothes before going to the Mall, and hadn’t purchased anything else. So there ought to be sixty-two cents in my pocket. I got out all my change, and put it on the counter: two pennies, two nickels, two quarters.

“There,” I said. “That’s the change from a twenty.”

And she looked at me like I was nuts. Was I? To me that’s perfect proof. Who can dip their hand in their pocket and pull out 62 cents on cue, unless you’ve handed over a Jackson for a $19.38 bill?

Weekend movie - “Devil in a Blue Dress,” the Easy Rawlins movie that should have made a lot of money. It didn’t do too well. I’ve no idea why. It’s as good as Chinatown, it has all the period details down cold; it has a setting you never see in movies - black LA in the forties - and it has one of the most arresting performances of the 90s, in Don Cheadle’s Mouse. (C’mon, Easy, if you din wan’ him to be kih’d, why j’u lea’m wit me?”) Perhaps its failing is its Femme Fatale, Jennifer Beals; she’s supposed to be this drop-dead mankiller, but the way she’s made up and styled you wonder what Seabiscuit is doing in the picture.

I never imagined Easy to look like Denzel Washington, but he owns the role after about 17 seconds.

Note: one of the virtues of watching a movie on your computer: Easy drives his car past a movie theater. Freeze: the marquee says “Oscar Micheaux’s ‘The Betrayal’”

Fire up the browser, hit imdb.com, enter the terms, get this:

The Unforgettable story of Martin Eden, young Negro man of Conquest, who built an agricultural empire in the Dakota Wilderness - with the strangest love story ever told!

A Black film director. The man did 40+ movies, starting in the silent era. Born in a town named Metropolis.

I read the bio, checked some links, bookmarked it, then returned to the movie window, hit play. An entire career, an entire life revealed by four words in the background of a movie. There’s probably fifty more details in that film I’ll never get.

Okay, Politics follow. Bail if you choose; see you tomorrow.

In the Sunday book pages of the Strib was an article about the women of Afghanistan. It was discussing the new-found freedoms of women in the post-Taliban society, about girls queuing for school after years of oppression. Quote: “No matter what one’s political misgivings about the war might be, the sight of those girls was a thrilling shock.”

That sentence stuck in my head, and made me think back to October 01, to all the discontent over the Afghan campaign. We’ve forgotten what that was like - the marches in Europe, the predictions of mass casualties, the accusations of empire-building, how it was all about (cue Twilight Zone theme) an oil pipeline, how it would become a quagmire, how it was a quagmire, how we should have used international law to bring OBL to justice. It was the dress rehearsal for Iraq. The same blind sputtering fury; the same protests with Bush = Hitler posters and giant mocking puppets; the same inability to accept that a byproduct of the campaign would be a freer society for the very people the protesters supposedly cared about.

Any mass executions at the Kabul soccer stadium recently? No?

Wonder why.

That book-review quote says it all. We have to honor those who had “political misgivings,” because dissent is a virtue too pure to be stained by truth. Nevermind that the end result of those “political misgivings” would have been another generation of Afghan daughters beaten with bats for winking at a cute guy. Those “political misgivings” would have assured that any young Afghan woman who stepped outside her house and asked to be educated would be whipped with 2 X 4s by the Committee for Flaming Theocracy Gynophobe Committee.

But that can’t be said. People who were wrong for the right reasons will always get a pass.

Look. I don’t have “political misgivings” about a Liberian intervention; I have practical misgivings about using American forces in TFNs, or Totally Farked Nations. I’m on the fence here. I’ve heard compelling arguments against intervention, and I've heard solid arguments about the uniqueness of an American presence in Liberia, considering their attitude towards its distant thrice-removed paternal figure. But if I decide it’s all a big mistake, and I put up a lawn sign and write letters to the editor and show up for candlelight vigils and all the other examples of symbolic busywork, I don’t get to be thrilled when Monrovia is peaceful and thriving again. I get to be embarrassed.

i thought of this today while reading an interview with the director of the latest Harry Frickin’ Potter movie. Oh, he’s a brave man; oh, he’s a truth teller:

  Cuaron’s outspokenness is also new to the franchise. Does the evil wizard Voldemort still remind him of George W. Bush, as he said recently? “In combination with Saddam,” he says. “They both have selfish interests and are very much in love with power. Also, a disregard for the environment.”

That last fillip is priceless. It’s like Mick Jagger on stage pointing to the right half of the balcony - they all stand up and scream. Me! Me! He noticed Me!

Let's review. Bush: supported legislation that wanted to open up an obscure distant corner of caribou country for oil production. The legislation failed; the drilling has not occurred.

Saddam: drained the entire southeastern marsh of his nation, diverted the water, ruined wetlands and the Ma’dan, the people who lived in that ecosystem. One could call it Ethnic Cleansing. One could even call it a Hate Crime.

Well, the water is flowing into the marshes again. Saddam flooded them to hamper the invasion. Yeah, that worked well, eh? Now the villagers are returning; now they’re fishing again.

Of course, this was not the objective of the war; hardly. But it’s happened. And it’s irrelevant to the finely-tuned political minds of our culture’s artists. If Bush had called Saddam “a real-life Voldemort” they’d have spit out their tea and laughed themselves silly - such simplistic Hollywood drivel; what else would you expect from an example of doltus Americanus?

But should a director of moving pictures call Bush a real-life Voldemort, and twin him with a fascist who gassed a village for research purposes - ah, there’s a canny lad. There’s a piercing mind.

This director’s movie will open nationwide on 3,000 screens, and it will make hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tell me again about the crushing of dissent. But speak up! The TV is rerunning Baghdad reaction to the death of the brothers, and the celebratory gunfire is deafening. Their political misgivings about American intervention aside, they actually seem happy.

Nurse: 40 ccs of Reuters, STAT!

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