Hugh Hewitt’s father passed away, and the Bleat removes its cap in honor of Old Bill, the irascible pater familias of the Hewitt line.

The cicadas are back, sewing up the loose ends of summer. The first time I hear that buzz I smile, because you always forget about the cicadas, and you rarely notice them until they’ve been back for a while. This year I think I heard the first one - just a single buzz, not too loud. Perhaps he was the warm-up act. They’re all here now, and I can hear them inside the house with the air conditioner running: li’l bastiches are loud.

Did the day in a funk and a fog; not nearly enough sleep. Felt a second away from REMtime every moment of the day until I went home and hit the hay - at which point my mind started spinning, of course. I’d get close to sleep; the thoughts would turn surreal (children chasing a blue balloon over a field: eh? Where did that come from?) then I’d have one of those mood-blowing HEY, I’M FALLING ASLEEP! thoughts that resets everything. Laid there until the alarm went off.

It’s hot. Not yet nine PM; still in the 90s. Went out to play ball with Jasper, and once again he refuses to play normal dogball. Usually I hit the ball with a baseball bat. He brings it back. Repeat ad infinitum. But lately he wants to play keepaway, running around the big back yard, refusing to relinquish the ball. So I added a new wrinkle: Rover Dodgeball. Gnat has a giant inflatable ball which reminds me of those wobbly bubbles that patrolled the perimeter of the Village in the old “Prisoner” TV show. I kick it in Jasper’s general direction. He runs the other way. I run across the yard to the big ball. He runs to the opposite side of the yard. Repeat. Stop after three minutes because I realize I don’t know what the hell we’re doing, and it’s too hot for this anyway.

(whistling, rocking on heels)

Okay, enough throat clearing. I will be co-hosting the Hugh Hewitt show at the State Fair this Friday, as I may have mentioned before. But there’s been a slight change in plans.

Hugh Hewitt won’t be there.

As I mentioned above, Hugh’s out for the week, dealing with family matters this week. But the show goes on; they'd made arrangements to broadcast from the Fair - and since the Minnesota bench is rather shallow, I just got upgraded from guy-sitting-in-the-room-making-occasional-stupid remarks to something somewhat larger. Thankfully, the show’s producer, the inestimable Generalissimo, will be present as well, and if I get the vapors and have to retire to my fainting couch he can certainly handle everything. I’m not concerned, and I think it will be fun, in a hellish sort of way. Broadcasting from the fair is like - no, there’s no apt simile, because this one surpasses in hellishness anything you can use to describe it. But I’m already chortling at the idea that we’ll be interviewing Howard Kurtz of the Post, and the Fred & Morton Beltway Boys team, from a booth a few yards away from a haunted house and a Stoat Rectum on a Stick stand.

My first national radio gig, and like every other radio job I’ve ever done, it began by calling the host. There’s a lesson here.

Don’t call the host.

Recent movies:

The Front Page, 197X remake. Lots of Matthau and Lemmon being Matthau and Lemmon. One's grouchy, the other one stammers and waves his arms - who saw that coming? Lots of shouting and cussing. I imagine it was all very wearying, but in 20 minute doses over four nights it wore well. Newspaper people love movies like this; it makes their profession seem so roguish. And indeed it was, once; decent people did not enter the newspaper profession anymore than they took jobs as harlot wranglers. But we love 'em now, because they make us look colorful. Alas: these archetypes we revere wouldn’t last a day in a modern newspaper - they were profane, drunken, nihilistic fabulists more concerned with the cards in their hands than the truth on the page. They're fifty years and a billion miles from the cautious, comfy sorts who fill newspaper offices today, peering at their monitors and spending 30 minutes buffing a simile. My God, if I pulled a bottle of scotch out of my desk and screwed a cigar in my mug they’d take me to a conference room for an intervention.

Skyjacked. I had no idea this movie existed. It’s one of the films “Airplane!” spoofs, but it was Riveting Drama at the time. Charlton Heston plays the pilot. Charlton Heston always played the pilot. I think if you were a passenger in 1975, and you saw Heston walk into the cockpit and sit in the captain’s chair, you’d be relieved: well, whatever happens, he’ll get us down. The rest of the cast is pure 70s, and WARNING: all names are probably mispelled because I’m too lazy to cut and paste from imdb.com, okay? Okay. There’s Rosie Grier as a large, funky cellist; James Brolin as the sweaty Vietnam-Vet whackjob; Susan Dey as the delicate-but-not-that-delicate, smart-but-not-that smart beauty; Walter Pidgeon as the esteemed actor brought on the plane for the sole purpose of providing theatrical gravitas; Yvette Mimeux as the hard-to-spell stewardess; Mariette or Marianne
Whatever Hartley as the saintly pregnant woman whose cervix dilates from three microns to Frisbee-width in about fourteen minutes; John Fiedler (the voice of Piglet) as the nervous pissy bald wanker you wish would just SHUT UP and let the Alpha Male get on with it, already; Claude Atkins as the Alpha Male air traffic controller who wrote the book on this procedure, and is able to talk down a fully-laden 707 by staring at a computer readout that makes a game of Pong look like Unreal Tournament.

Highly recommended.

The Wire. Not a movie, but an HBO show. Look: if you have the scratch, buy this thing when it comes out on DVD. Last season was great. This season is great. It makes the Sopranos look like the Osbournes, okay? The Sopranos, in a nutshell: Tony’s stressed. That guy you think they’re gonna whack? Eventually they whack him. I love the Sopranos, but compared to the acting, writing, characters, plotting and casting of the Wire, it’s nothing. And I don’t like rooting for the bad guys. What am I supposed to feel? Rah rah, sis goombah? No.

Friday night at Barnes and Noble I saw something that dragged me back a few decades: the National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook. NatLam was the Onion of its day, and it had topless hippie chicks, too. (I still remember getting busted for having one such issue in high school.) The Yearbook was a treasured item in high school, passed around until the pages were like Kleenex. O how we laughed. It was endlessly rewarding, stuffed with details and oblique running plots. It was one of P. J. O'Rourke's finest accomplishments, which says a lot. And it’s back!

Yes, I know - I roll out the Targeted Link, the sole purpose of which is to keep me in free CDs and DVDs, and it’s for some sophomoric ha-ha relic from the Ford administration. It’ll get better. Wait for next week’s link: Mexican cinema posters.

Tomorrow, free of charge: the cutest Gnat picture ever. You’ve been warned; this one is cruel in its ubercuteness. That’s it for today - although there’s a fresh Fence if you like that sort of thing. See you tomorrow.

Oh! and when I pimped my MP3s yesterday I said “all the popular kids” were doing it; I meant to link to Layne and Dr. Frank. Apologies.

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