It’s May. It snowed today. Insert long, desperate, profanity-laced scream here. Oh, it wasn’t the sort of snow that sticks around; just swirling flakes. Taunting, evil, symbols of malice, reminding you that winter never really goes away, it just slides around the corner of its own volition, ready to reappear when it feels the need. This is what it’s like to be a Minnesotan on the first day of May: outside, snow. Inside, the editorial page demands that taxes be raised. There’s no place to run.

Did the last concert of the Minnesota Youth Symphony Sunday afternoon. I overslept; woke one hour and 20 minutes before I was supposed to be on stage. Hence I hit the mike with a full head of steam, overcharged and full of momentum. Better than hanging around all day wondering how it was going to go, I suppose; I hate waiting to go on stage anyway. I prefer to walk in the hall, proceed right through the big doors, behold the crowd stacked three stories high and get on with it, already. And so I did. It was the usual magnificent performance from all the orchestras, but at half-time I went outside for a cigar, saw the flakes, felt the shiv of the wind, and remembered last year: sunny and warm. Of course, last year’s spring was wet and dim as well, and gave way to one of the coldest summers on record.

I dream of deserts. But what would I do there?


It’s not a good thing, these doubts. I don’t know. Five years. Maybe ten. It tears at me to think of these things, but dammit: snow. In. May.

Watched “Primer,” a sci-fi ultra-low-budget time-travel movie that came highly recommended. Made for about seven grand. Written / directed / acted / catered / etc by the same guy, Sundance honors, indie cred, all that. The first 30 minutes were geek heaven; nerds in white shirts doing a Mamet version of technobabble. Then the movie entered a unique form of storytelling in which the auteur compensated for incomprehensibility of the storyline with liberal application of Final Cut filters. I can follow knotty thorny tales; why, I understood the last part of “Mulholland Drive” the first time out. I don’t need Christopher Lloyd leaping around shouting about jigawatts to focus my attention on time-travel paradoxes, but this thing was just a mess. From what I’ve read it makes sense after repeating viewings with the commentary track on, but that’s like saying I should read “Finnegan’s Wake” in Esperanto three times to get all the subtle meaning. Life’s too snowy.

Just for amusement I popped in “Back to the Future.” It was playing the other day at the Outmoded Video Content Distribution Node – the big clock-tower / lighting bolt scene.

“This is such a great movie,” I said to the clerk when I put down my rental. (Which was “Primer.”) “It really is.”

“Yeah, it is,” he said. Twenty-something guy. “It’s on cable all the time but I never get sick of it. And this was the movie that, like, made Michael J. Fox a star, right?”

“Well, no – he was a TV star before this. Which made him a lightweight to some, but this movie showed he could carry a feature. As long as it had time travel and Christopher Lloyd, anyway.”

“Huh. He was on TV?”

“He played a Reaganite.”

The word meant nothing. Figure: in ten years, “Back to the Future” will be thirty years old.

Soak in that one for a while.

And as such, the year in which it’s set – 1985 – will be as distant from us as 1955 was to the movie’s hero. I suspect the difference between now and then will be greater than the difference between then and extra-then; in fact, there’s very little about “Back to the Future” that seems dated or silly. There aren’t any computers, no internet – but you could easily make a movie about daily life today in which no one spent any time in front of a screen. No iPods, but the hero has a Walkman. 1985 – a year by which I’d already owned two computers – doesn’t feel remote or ancient as 1975 or, God help me, 1965.

I’m still waiting for the culture to rid itself of its tiresome reverence of the 60s and kitschy kicky indulgence of the 70s, and explore the 80s as something other than an era of legwarmers, poufy hair, shoulderpads and Dallas. It was so much more. Like Izod shirts and Members Only jackets, for example. (bada-boom!) But seriously folks. The politics, the music, the movies, the literature, the architecture, video – it was all a clean break, a new look, a strenuous refutation of the previous era, and the fault lines of the modern political and cultural divide go right back to 1984, between those who said it is morning in America and those who said yeah right. The eighties and the fifties have more in common than you suspect.

The fact that we have an entry today is a testament to Tiger, the new Mac OS. Friday night I went to the Mall (took Gnat, so she may have a dim memory of these wondrous times) to get OS X 10.4, promising her we’d get ice cream. Here’s a sign of how much Apple-flavored Kool-Aid I’ve consumed: as we approached the store I noted the jam-packed parking lot and thought gee, I hope they’re not all here for the new operating system – what if they’ve run out? (It was seven PM, one hour after they’d opened the doors.) Then I realized that most people were here for crude, base things like movies or meals, and relaxed. There was a cattle-chute marked off my ropes that had contained the mob until six; one employee told me people had been queued since three. Three hundred and fifty people were waiting when they opened the doors. At the Mall of America, the line stretched halfway down the length of the Mall, which is no small accomplishment. All this for widgets?

Yes. Yes, indeed. That’s why we’re here: widgets. The new OS has a handy little feature called “Dashboard” – hit F12, and the screen fills with mini-apps of varying usefulness. I don’t need an analogue clock, for example. The FedEx tracking widget will come in handy someday. The Flight Tracker widget, which displays flight speed, position, arrival time, is cool beyond measure. But there’s a dictionary widget, a phone book, a weather program, and an FTP widget that makes uploading this site a thing of beauty – I just hit F12, drag the file to the widget, and voila. In the old days I opened the program, logged in, navigated to the proper folder, and dragged it over: four steps. FOUR! This is 2005: I don’t have time for four steps. Now it’s two steps. I will spend the extra time learning how to sculpt marble.

I did a complete reformat on the laptop, because there’s nothing there I can’t lose. Reloading the programs ran up against a problem, long forgotten: when I tried to reinstall Adobe GoLive, which I use to build the website, it informed me that this was an upgrade disc. Original serial number, please? Oy: Bog knows where that is. I will spare you the details of the Frankenstein-like experiments I tried to bring the old legacy Macs back to life to find the AppleWorks document with the serial number; enough to say that I failed, and downloaded a version of Dreamweaver to give it a try. This may be the impetus to switch from that craptacular GoLive to Dreamweaver, after all. (Save your emails: I know it’s the superior product.) (This page is done in Dreamweaver, so forgive any glitches.)

The interface tweaks are subtle and gorgeous. The first time I saw the Ripple effect when adding a widget, I think a small amount of drool slid from my lower lip. When I called up the Star Tribune computer in emulation mode, and got a screen of icons from Win95, I felt like I’d spit on the Mona Lisa.

Yes, I am snorting powdered Kool-Aid up my nose. It’s faster that way. Why do you ask?

Perm link: here.

Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More