“Don’t chew on Cinderella’s head. It’s not safe.”

This is the sort of thing you say 3495783 times a day when you’re dealing with a small child; double the number when she has a friend over. They were watching a Madelaine cartoon (do the French have a cartoon that portrays life in America in such lovely terms? I’m no fan of the books, really; the art looks like krep, to be Frank, and life under Miss Clavel seems rather strict and sad. All those little girls without parents warehoused in a room with metal beds. The animated cartoons soften the line, play up zee agcents, and paint Paris in hues that suggest both spring and fall. The narration has the same meter as the books; no mean feat, that. Not many children’s shows make a point of telling the tale in rhyme. A French analogue would follow a plucky American child in Manhattan. Say, Annie. But then you have the problem of Pere Guerrefrancs) and Gnat watched the show clasping the Cinderella figurine left over from her birthday cake. Her friend had asked if we had another Princess? I got Sleeping Beauty. They sat on the sofa, Princesses in hand. Then I noticed that Gnat was chewing on Cindy, like Saturness Devouring Her Daughter. Her friend did the same. I admonished them both: do not chew the skulls of these registered trademark characters of the Disney corporation.


Did I leave the house today? Let me think. Yes. We went to the grocery store. And I think I walked the dog. It’s all rather indistinct. The brain, she has shut down.

I usually bang out the Bleat between 8:30 and 10 PM, but tonight I just said No. NO. I attacked the tottering stacks of crap that used to fill the closet, sorted and bagged and sorted and arranged (I went to Organized Living yesterday to get four more flat boxes, because, you see, I have decided to arrange my ephemera by decade!) And now it’s done. Everything’s in its place. The floor is clean. I looked at the closet tonight, at the neatly labeled boxes and bins, and I thought: wow. I won. I did it. Towards the end it got stupid – I found some plastic sunglasses, and wondered why I’d held on to them, but it came back quickly. These were the faux Ray-bans I wore on the cover of “Fresh Lies.” I bought them on the way to the photo shoot for the cover, in fact. I checked the book: yep. But what of that hideous 40s-style floral tie? I plowed through a drawer in the guest bedroom, found the tie (from 1992) and put it in a ZIPLOC bag with the glasses. “FRESH LIES COVER TIE AND GLASSES” I wrote on the bag. Put it downstairs in the 90s bin. I have to stop. I have to stop now, or I will spend the next six months taking dental impressions of everyone I know and filing them away in a bin marked “21st century > people > friends > mouths.”

Mostly I have to stop because I’ve been piling up stuff in the tool shed, and I really need to clean that thing out.

So I’m taking next week off. No columns. There will be the usual updates for the sake of updates here – scans, photos, oddities, something to reward your daily visit, so stay tuned.

Although nothing I can provide can compare to this:

Captions can’t capture the essence of the image. This picture is all things to all people the world over. If you hate him, you laugh. If you love him, you laugh. You shuckin' to me?

Yes, I wrote a big thick slab of drivel about the swiftvets thing, but in retrospect my opinion seems remarkably unnecessary, as usual. Vietnam is an odd thing to people of my age – middle 40s, give or take. It was a strange odd beast growling in the margins when we were growing up. Unless you were in a military family you probably had a vague sense that it was Wrong, since all the really cool stuff the older kids enjoyed was opposed to it. The comic books had ads for the two-fingered peace symbol stickers and embroidery patches, and that strange poster with two people laying on each other to make the peace symbol. (What were they doing?) The war was fought on the TV and the newspaper and every third issue of LIFE. It was over before I left junior high. Perhaps it would have made more of an impression if it had been a debate topic in high school.

Later it was a Symbol and a Warning – a reminder of American failings, not American failure. It was a template, too; every war wa seem through the terms of Vietnam, which for us meant THE DRAFT, the ultimate mellow-harsher. Most of my reflexive anti-militarism of the early 80s came not from any deep-seated conviction about the ethics of force, but from a desire to stay in coffeehouses smoking cigarettes and reading books as long as I wanted to. It was selfish and cowardly, but I had a vast body of literature and philosophy to help me convince myself otherwise. As the 80s wore on Vietnam receded in my mind, replaced by fear of nuclear war. That prospect had been a specific terror since I was ten, and I knew it intimately. That one I felt in my gut. Vietnam was a hand-me-down.

Revisiting Vietnam in 2004 seems about as useful as debating the Phillippines war while the troop ships are sending Doughboys to the trenches in France. We have more pressing issues, I think. The news today noted that the men arrested at the Albany mosque were fingered by some documents found at Al-Ansar sites in Iraq, of all places. Iraq! Imagine that. I would sleep better if I could snort sure, it’s a plant and tell myself that it’s all made up, it’s all a joke, a phony show designed to make us look the other way while a cackling cabal of Masons and Zionists figure out how much arsenic they can put in the water next year. (Arsenic: the fluoride of the left.) But no. I am one of those sad little pinheads who think it’s really one war, one foe, with a thousand fronts. And I want us to win.

If you bridle at the terms “us” and “win” you really are reading the wrong website.

So I don’t want to spend 9000 words on the Swift Boat vets right now. There are two tales here: the story, and how the story will be played in the dino media. I have nothing to add to the first and it’s too early to comment on the latter. This is not about Vietnam. This is about character, and this is about spin. Over the next week there’s going to be a lot of discussion in newsrooms about what this story means, and how the mainstream media’s handling of the charges will affect their image. They can tear the story down to the foundation and root for the truth, or they can hide behind he-said-they-said reportage. It’s their Waterloo. We’ll see.

It’s late. I’m done. I really want to sit down in front of of the TV and start the “Pennies from Heaven” BBC DVD series, because the last view nights my evenings have concluded with nothing more than a frickin’ COPS from 1991. Is that a satisfying concluding sentence for the week? Probably not; I’ve stared at it for three minutes now, wondering what more I should say. How about:

Don’t chew on Cinderella’s head.

We can all agree on that, right? Okay.


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c. 1995-2004 j. lileks