Monday means the Play Place. A vast indoor park. Painful. Yesterday we went to my wife’s office to move a gigantic ficus tree, and I managed to anger up most of the relevant muscles. Back: ouch. Legs: ouch. Arms: ouch. This morning I applied some muscle-pain cream my sister had recommended, and to my surprise it took my mind off the muscle pain quite nicely – mostly because it felt as if I’d applied a thin coating of napalm on my skin and stepped in front of a flame thrower.

So I didn’t climb to the top right away, but bade her to scamper off and scale the heights without me. Why? Because Daddy is made of thin wire and straw today, hon. Why? Because the Time’s scythe does not always cut down in a single stoke, but whittles one away in daily portions. Why? Because – oh, nevermind, let’s go.

It’s your basic Hobbsean state—o-nature lord o’ the flies scene in the play house; few adults enter, so kids impose their own cruel rule. But since I am short – HO gauge, if you will – I can enter their world and impose in loco parentis smackdowns when needed. No, you can’t come up the slide the wrong way. Hey, you don’t step on other kids coming up the rigging. Gnat got into the game: when two little boys, full of little boyness, scrambled up the rigging and pushed her aside, she scrambled to the top, pointed a finger at them and said “you’re being rude.” And she did nothing about it beyond that. I see a State Department career.

There are nine thousand possible ways to control volume on this computer. The keyboard has three keys - up volume, down volume, mute. The iTunes program has a volume slider, controlled by my Contour Pro shuttle (13 buttons! Two wheels!) You can play an MP3 from the window in the Finder window, or from the Get Info Preview window. In either case you can control the volume by another slider. So it’s possible to have a million different volume settings.

Until now!

This is a brilliant piece of marketing right here; it’s aimed squarely at Mac fanatic cultists who slosh with Jobs’ Kool-Aid, and will toss out all their hypercool translucent HK SoundSticks for one simple reason: God Help Them, it MATCHES THE G5 TOWER. ARRRGH! But there’s more to it, really – the sound is much much much better than the SoundSticks. I tested the unit with a piece of orchestral bluster I use for measuring the system’s ability to handle everything I can throw at it, and what was glass-flecked mud on the SoundSticks was now broad and bright with an oaken floor. (Whatever that means.) I am not an audiophile, thank God; I do not want to listen to my speakers more than I listen to the music. The very fact that I am content to listen to classical in MP3 format shows how debased I am. But these speakers are an improvement.

But wait! There’s more. The system has a controller – a volume knob, treble and bass controls. With blue lights!

So you can max out all your settings and use this for everything. But wait! It also has a headphone jack. And you’re saying: But Mr. Lileks – is that Leeleks, or Lyelecks? I could never tell – anyway, doesn’t the new G5 have a headphone jack on the front? It does. But to switch between headphones and external speakers meant a trip to the System Preferences. No more.

But wait. Really: here’s the kicker: the controller has a remote. A docking remote. I may never use it; I don’t care. It’s there. That’s what counts.

Anyway: this is part of the sickness of Macdom: the subwoofer is under the desk, and I can’t see it. It doesn’t have to match the G5. But I feel better knowing that it does.

And I feel worse, too. Because I know damn well that in a year they’re going to come out with new Cinema monitors in the aluminum frame, because pinstripe and clear plastic are so 2001.

They not only have my number, they show no signs of ever letting me have it back.

(And it’s “lie-lecks.”)

Recommended reading: this piece by Claudia Rosett, which contains a rather startling revelation. If this holds, and Saddam was indeed funneling money to and through al-Qaeda-connected banks, what does this do for John Kerry’s credibility? He stated on Sunday that Saddam had no connections to Al-Qaeda, an assertion that has now taken on the mantle of Absolute Fact. Nowadays the idea that Saddam had anything to do with terrorism is regarded as proof of a mind that refuses to accept reality. This, despite the payments to the suicide bombers’ families. This, despite the terrorists who had refuge in Iraq. This, despite the training camp. This, despite al-Ansar. This is something I’ve never understood: the belief that Iraq was somehow hermetically sealed off from the politics of the Arab world, as though it was actually located somewhere north of Turkey, as though it was immune to the temptation of using these transnational forces to its own advantage. At the very least you’d expect Saddam to buy these guys off, if only for insurance purposes. But no: Saddam was the one principled leader who refused to deal with terrorist organizations, because . . . he was secular? Please. A guy who commissions a Qu’ran in his own blood is not exactly unaware of the fundamentalist currents in his culture.

I don’t think he was behind 9/11; I don’t think he organized it, supported it overtly, or even knew what was up. That’s different from saying “Saddam had no connection to Al-Qaeda,” which strikes me not only as a rash and premature judgment, but one that seems willfully blind to the realities of the region. To say something like that with confidence does not suggest, shall we say, evidence of a flexible, nuanced worldview. Because, well, you might be proven wrong. And then what? How do you recover from such a conspicuous admission of naivete?

The electorate might want to inquire: who else don’t you suspect?

I’m waiting for the oil-for-food / oil-for-palaces / oil-for-TotalFinaElf /oil-for-terror story to go mainstream. And I don’t think it will. The big papers may do a round-up; the smaller papers may use a few grafs in their international coverage; USA Today might do something, but in the end it’ll be chalked up to bureaucratic fumbling and inefficiency. If context is required, the reporter will bring up Tyco and Enron: a lesson about Bigness and Accountability, etc.

Let’s say Saddam’s bribes ended up in a bank in the Caymans, and Dick Cheney had been on that bank’s board in 1999. Would the allegation of such a transfer be a story? Damn straight. As it should be. So if Claudia’s story doesn’t hit your hometown paper this week, you might ask why. And I can answer the question.

If it’s not on the AP or NYT wire, it didn’t happen.

Are we clear? Good.

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c.. 1995-2004 j. lileks