Screenshot from HBO's magnificent "Band of Brothers."

Note to Apple: when you change the shipping date on an item to THREE BLOODY WEEKS into the FUTURE, it would help if the order-status webpage said “gosh, sorry” and included a nice little QuickTime movie of the factory workers making the computers as fast as they possibly can. You could even speed it up and set it to rinky-dink piano music. You could shoot me a code good for one free song at iTunes. You could recognize that demand for these machines was like a soda can in a paint-shaker before you even announced them.


(amusing update: Brian T emailed to commiserate, noting he'd gotten a delay notice too, but he'd just been informed that it had shipped after all. So I checked my order: hallelujah. It shipped today!)

(Even more amusing update: last night TiVo coughed up "Son of Frankenstein," which reminded me that I hadn't watched the "Young Frankenstein" DVD I bought a while ago. Watched half last night. Watching the rest now at 1:37 AM, having finished the column. As I typed the word Hallelujah above, Madeline Kahn was brushing her hair, singing "Glory, glory hallelujah." As she sang it, I typed it. What ARE the odds. Now back to the Bleat, written three hours earlier.)

I had the worst nightmare this morning. It began as an outtake from that movie “28 Days” - didn’t see it, but I know what it was about. For most of the dream I was running from infuriated blood-crazy zombies who wanted to eat my face, and hence I was extremely grateful when I woke up. I took a few aspirin, drank some water, went back to sleep. SAME DREAM. Eventually it morphed, as they always do, into a different-but-the-same situation; I was trapped in my old house in Fargo with a pistol and a gun that shot BBs. And who was outside my house? Saddam Hussein, and a trusted aide. I emptied my BB gun on the aide: no good. I got a bead on Saddam, and squeezed the trigger: click. Aw, great. I have a perfect chance to off this guy, and I’m fresh outta lead. Wait - this is my Dad’s house, and come to think of it, this is his pistol; there has to be ammo around here somewhere. So I call my Dad on the cellphone. He’s at the casino. Doing well, in fact. Where are the bullets?


Saddam’s outside the house. Where do you keep the bullets?

Oh. Basement cabinets.

He was right. Lots of bullets. But as I was loading, Gnat banged into the room and shouted DADDY WAKE UP, and frankly I was glad to do so. Between the face-eating zombies and Saddam in the shrubbery, I was glad to be done with Sleep Theater for a while.

Like many of you, I hit Arts & Letters Daily, well, daily. Someday someone will parody the site's style:

He walked around the city with a carrot up his nose. Dogs found his odor confusing. Yet Harvey Delmonico was the most celebrated optometrist of his day . . .

And I jest because I care. Today’s page had this tantalizing intro:

Shopping , a ceaseless search for the next meaningless object, is for people without purpose. The British are not even good at shopping, having become a nation of shoplifters.

It linked to an essay by Theodore Dalrymple, our Virgil in the journey down the circles of English Hell. His description of the din of this English mall was interesting, because it reminded me of something I noted at Southdale (the Mother of All Malls) last night: the silence. Or rather the stillness. The music store was loud, but not loud enough to infect adjacent stores. One of the department stores was playing one Lindsay Buckingham’s lapidary numbers, “Trouble,” at a barely perceptible volume. (Once home, I went to the iTunes store and bought it. Fleetwood Mac I can take or leave, but Buckingham has this ability to twin marvel and sadness in a single song, and I like a lot of his work.) There was a boom & thud coming from the Abercrombie & Fitch store, but across the aisle in the Hallmark kitsch-o-teria, everything was quiet and content. The Mall of America is different; you always hear the thrash and rattle of the amusement park at the Mall’s center. Galleria, a nearby ultra-upscale mall, is so quiet you can hear a diamond-tipped pin fall on a Coach purse. Dalrymple’s on to something. The louder the store, the dumber the clientele.

Watched two episodes of “Carnivale,” an HBO series that takes the place of “The Wire.” The latter was a cop drama, in the sense that “Crime and Punishment” was a novel about an axe; it was almost impenetrable if you came in late, required constant rewinding to catch throwaway lines, spawned subplots that meandered off and got lost. One of my favorite shows ever, and worth every dime of my HBO subscription. In its place they have the aforementioned carny drama, which features absolutely everything I cannot stand about Important Television: it’s full of weirdness that wouldn’t be out of place in some impenetrable European movie that lasted nine hours and featured monks wearing pig masks; it has a general air of Looming Portentousness that saturates every moment with constant dread; it has the Twin Peaks Midget Guy just to let you know we’re in Red Lodge territory here. And sin of sins: it talks about sin a lot. There’s a great battle shaping up 'twixt good & evil, you see, and behold the archetypes who will feature prominently in the struggle: the Capitalist, the Solider, the Sainted Drifter, and the Corrupted Priest. Also a bear.

Stuff like this makes me grind my teeth. I read reviews of shows like this, and I think: pass. Most of the reviews I’ve read have said: eh. Meh. Whatever.

But here's the thing. I love it. The depiction of a 1930s carnival feel absolutely spot on - as if I’d know, of course. Chalk it up to good art direction: accurate or not it makes you think that this was how the world appeared. Everything looks worn, corroded, beaten and faded; it’s as if ten years of Depression has drained the color from everything, and left only brown and tan and a bitter red the color of old dry blood. I don’t want to oversell it, and it may tank eventually. But I know I fought it for the first ten minutes - you can’t make me like this! You can’t! but eventually I felt that unnerving, spooky dread-soaked quality that made me love the Twin Peaks pilot. Now imagine TP without Agent Cooper, Harry Truman, all the comic relief, the comely friends of Laura, the perfect simple music, and all the other things that grounded the show in the real world. Watching the show feels like you're living your last strange moments of sanity. Soon you're going to go mad.

And then it will all make sense.

Okay, column night. Back to work. (Matchbook tomorrow.)

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