Major accomplishment today: creating the cover for the Joe Ohio book submission. I want this thing to look good. Working title is “The Matchbook Artist.” Main problem: I have to rewrite the first ten, before I realized what I really wanted to do. Secondary project: selling this with no guarantee that the plot will resolve. I hope that the right matches will show up and let me take the story where I want, but if not, well, the 165 books in the series were taken from a batch of 400, so I may have to supplement them. My friend & eBay procurer (hi George!) also found two new collections I might use; one is from the 1940s, and could well be something Joe finds in his dad’s possessions. (Still don’t know what happened to him.) The other batch, to my astonishment, consisted mostly of promotional matches for matchbook companies, including some Ohio firms. Destiny is with me. (coff)

Saw a preview for the new War of the Worlds movie, and it looks very, very good. It feels real, thanks to the inclusion of a small girl who can effectively mime fear and horror. I don’t expect to end like the original movie, which still stands as Grade A sci-fi – that movie ended with a theological bait-and-switch, as the protagonists huddled in a church to await hideous green screechy death. God was not dead, just away on other business. But then God’s Littlest Critters did the Martians in – something that amuses modern eyes; who invades another planet without biofilters, for heaven’s sake? – and the church bells pealed. Fooled ya! The moviemakers could have got away without an explicitly religious ending; it’s not like Creature from the Black Lagoon was struck down by a swarm of haloed minnows puking holy water. But there was nothing culturally discontinuous about ending the movie on a Godly note. It was part of the cultural atmosphere, like hydrogen and car exhaust and Dick and Jane and those TV dinner corn pockets that were always cold in the center. Not frozen, not hard, but cold. So you had to mix them up, stir it around.

So yes, I’ll see it in the theater. And let me be on record now: the next Star Wars movie is going to be good, even though the man behind it is an overrated wad of bearded fatuity. The dialogue will probably have its grievous moments, but nothing will ever be as bad as the “I don’t like sand” monologue. You know, that could have been a good scene: “I hate sand. I was born on a planet of sand. It got in your eyes and your food and your clothes. It stank with whomprat piss. It was in your shoes when you woke in the morning and it was in your sheets when you went to bed at night. You grew up a slave, you grew up in a world of sand.” And so forth.) I expect I’ll see both the way I prefer: alone on a cloudy summer afternoon in an empty theater while Gnat’s at camp, or away the summer trip with my wife.

Yes, they’re going away. For ten days. Female-side-of-the-family trip. How I’ll miss them. I know how it will go: geek bachelor heaven. Me and the dog. Pizza boxes and late night movies without the headphones. (That passes for mad heedless license these days.) Day trips around town with the camera. I’m looking forward to it, but I know that by day four I will be weeping with the soft gentle memory of days like today. Gnat and I hung out at home all morning, had a late lunch; she did a series of drawings of Maisy that were really quite good. And here I get into the usual conundrum of parenting: how to build self-confidence without including its siblings, Arrogance and Conceit.

“I’m a good artist!”

“Yes you are.”

“I’m better than anyone.”

“Well, we don’t boast, hon. Some people are better and some are not as good.”

“Oh right.”

“But you are a great artist.”

“Thanks dad. And I’m better than you.”

“I think we’re both pretty good, but you do a perfect Maisy. With practice you could be the Maisy-drawing champ of the house.”

“Better than Jasper.”


“Because he’s a dog and he can’t draw.”

“Right. But he has his own talents.”

“He can smell!”

“That’s right.”

And so on. We have a variant of this conversation six times a day. You have to calibrate the kudos a dozen different ways. I reserve the greatest praise for acts of character – kindness, sympathy, self-directed recognitions of responsibility, that sort of thing. She can learn to draw when she’s eight, but now is when she learns to be good. Lucky for me, I got one who was good from the start. My main job is simply fine-tuning.

Productive night – did my TV column for American Enterprise Institute mag, wrote this, and did a Joe in the allotted 25 minutes. Now it’s time for “Battlestar Galactica,” thank you. I’ve earned.

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