Sixty five degrees! Sixty five degrees! No jacket! Spring arrived without dispute today, and we’re all happy. Nevertheless: The river Dudgeon, she is high tonight. Let’s begin:

Attention, Organized Living: stop the ridiculous customer interrogation at check out. I pile all my stuff on the counter - six hideously overpriced magazine storage boxes (ten cents worth of pulp for six bucks? Small six-eyed capering demons with long slobbery tongues will jab you in the buttocks in hell for that. Or maybe in heaven. If I were St. Peter I’d give them a day pass and let them have at you), some wire racks for correspondence, two of those can-dispensers that hold 12 cans so you can always tell at a glance how you’re doing on non-carbonated Diet Code Red Mountain Dew (a drink so unnatural it gives cancer cancer, but I like it.) The clerk asks: “have you shopped here before?” I answer yes, and turn away to watch Gnat, who is playing bongos on the store’s garbage pail display about 20 feet away. I told her to play softly, so she’s very carefully bongoing away like some stoner in a 1950s Greenwich Village coffee house who just learned the concept of pianissimo, maaan. When I turn back to the counter a few minutes later the clerk has not rung anything up. She is looking at me.

“May I have your name, please,” she says. And of course I answer no with a smile, and she gives me that look they always give me, like I’m the Village Freethinker who like to hang outside church on Sunday morning in my bathrobe toasting the parishioners with a Schlitz. How dare you not give us your name? I remembered that this is why I don’t like Organized Living; you practically have to give them a swab from the inside of your cheek. It’s for my benefit, of course – they send me coupons! For overpriced molded plastic crap I don’t need! I don’t mind when the clerk just says “okay” and hits the “paranoid weirdo declined” button, but when I get the big huff I’m tempted to shout MY NAME IS HUGH G. RECSHION, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? And take it up with the manager.

Attention, Sam’s Club: oh, no you don’t. I went to one of your stores today to join up, attracted by the prospect of buying Bounty towels in quantities usually reserved for the U. S. Army, and because I want to destroy local merchants and force everyone into meaningless low-paying jobs. This way no one can afford my books, or buy the things in the newspaper that pay my salary. Screw America! I got mine! The clerk explained the difference between the $35 membership and the Platinum Advantage Total $100 membership; the latter apparently gets you dental coverage, free prescription drugs, photo processing that makes everyone in the pictures look younger and thinner, colorectal exams with lubricants only Trumps can usually afford - PLUS the ghost of Sam Walton himself makes an annual appearance to tell your kids a bedtime story. I went for the $35 subscription and put out my Wells Fargo / Visa check card.

“We don’t take Visa,” said the clerk.

“But it’s everywhere I want to be. And I want to be here.”

“We don’t take Visa, MasterCard or American Express, just Discover, Cash, or check.”

Discover? DISCOVER? The Gummo Marx of charge cards? I figured out the deal right away: they want you to get the Sam’s Club card, which I’m sure has an interest rate that would make Ayn Rand scream for a usury law, and they make their money off the interest, not the store. The entire Sam’s Club concept exists to support their in-house charge card.

“Well, sorry,” I said, smiling, and we left.

I guess I’ll have to go to Target and buy Bounty towels in 12-packs instead of 48-packs. Damn.

Attention, Panasonic: your new 5-speaker home theater system with combo DVD / VCR is a nice unit, and cheap. It replaces the other Sony 5-speaker system I have. It’s better than the 5-speaker home theater system I bought two years ago for the basement. Of course, I can’t use five speakers – I’m not going to strew wires in the kitchen family room, and the basement had 5.1 speaker system installed in the ceiling. I used the two speakers for the brackets on the wall. This means I have used four speakers, leaving me with 11 extra speakers. Add to that the two speakers that came with the small Philips system I bought to hook up to the bathroom ceiling speakers (they thought of everything, the previous owners did) and I now have 13 extra speakers. Thirteen. The 20-year-old in me can’t just throw out speakers, and I don’t know anyone who needs them, since they’re obviously plentiful; it’s not like the great Speaker Embargo of 1978 when audiophiles were lined up around the block by electronics stores. No. This isn’t your fault, and don’t think I blame you.

But. Let’s consider your design. It’s an amplifier; it’s an FM / AM tuner. It connects to the TV. It plays DVDs. It plays tapes. But there’s one component you forgot, one little thing so small I can see how it slipped your mind. Bear with me. Many people today have something called Cable. It’s a term used to describe a means of getting TV from a source other than thin air. Other people have Satellite Dishes on their roofs – I know, I know, isn’t it amazing? But it’s true – and they have a little black box that hands the video signal off to the TV, and pipes the audio to the receiver. Sony seems to grasp this, which is why their Home Theater System had two video input functions. You could switch between DVD, Video 1 (TV) and Video 2 (VCR).

You don’t have this, Panasonic. Consequently, when the unit is properly set up, the TV AUDIO PLAYS AT THE SAME TIME THE VCR AUDIO PLAYS, unless you put the TV to a channel that doesn’t exist. I had to call your technical support line to confirm this, because my child came up to my room saying “Daddy, Kipper is talking over Rainbow Fish.” And she was right. Kipper was talking over Rainbow Fish.

Attention, HBO, makers of Rainbow Fish: nice little children’s book, if a tad socialistic. Lousy animated series. In fact all your animated series are pathetic; Paddington Bear feels about as English as Jacques Tati, and “The Neverending Story” finally lives up to its name. (Lionel Hutz must have settled.)

(Ten minute pause for evening dance session with Gnat. Tonight: Macarena. Over, and over, and over again, followed by “I Fought the Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four, “Hyperactive,” by Thomas Dolby, and - of course - "Ballroom Blitz," by Sweet. You can even slam dance to that one.)

Attention, Palestinian public relations agents: exquisite timing, guys. You get a nice little bump when Sauroman gets converted into a pavement stain, and all the crocodiles who lead the nations of the world get out their pre-moistened towelettes and pretend to squeeze out a few tears. So how do you capitalize on this moment? The ”world community” is outraged that Israel smoked a guy who sent men to kill children, so naturally: you send a child to kill men.

Job security for the engineers of Hell. Ordinary Hell isn’t enough for the guys who send out these kids; they’re going to have to open a new wing of Extra Special Ultra Hell, aka Satan's Playroom. As I heard someone on the radio say the other day, for the 164,232nd time: they have no choice but to use suicide bombers, because they don’t have a conventional military. I have never quite understood that logic. Okay, so we give them Apache helicopters so they can strafe buses from overhead?

If we give them lots of Stinger missiles, perhaps they will promise only to use suicide bombers who’ve completed puberty.

Attention, Richard Clarke: your editor thought the book was great. Your agent thought it was great. The publicist you talked to was enthusiastic, and she knew she could get you on every show. Everyone involved was so impressed. New York people loved you!

And you didn't expect this sort of push-back?

How many years did you spend in Washington?

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