Snelling & University, St. Paul MN

Everyone in TV: SHUT UP. Just SHUT UP. Let me put it this way: a huge flying machine stuffed with souls is heading in for an emergency landing. It drops from the sky, heavy and slow. Two hundred feet – one hundred, fifty, ten – doesn’t matter, really; an an inch might as well be a mile, since what counts is the moment when the broken wheel scrapes its face on the unforgiving earth. Here’s what the viewer desires at this moment:


I know it’s hard to imagine. I know it goes against every instinct. But nothing you can say can possibly compete with the drama of a plane landing with a broken wheel, unless you are Merlin and can spit out some Welsh spell that snaps the wheel into the proper position. Even if that’s the case, pot down your mike and do it into your shirt cuff. Because we just want to watch and see what happens. Yes, that’s right: we can see what happens. Years of watching television have schooled us thus, and we are able to string the pictures that flicker on the Magic Box into a coherent narrative. If the plane has touched down, we can see it, and do not require your verbal affirmation.

Here’s the video, and listen for the moment when the drama of the moment so overwhelms the TV announcers that they fall silent . . . and note how long it takes them to kick in with hyperbabble:

And there it is basically just as they have been telling us, now, the professionals, nose up, and slowly would come down, and they’re looking to see if the wheels would straighten out, if there would be any sparks . . .

Thirty seconds of silence followed by a terse “thank God”: memorable TV. Nattering BS over gripping visuals: exactly what we all expect. It never fails to dismay: the medium is primary visual, but insists on smearing verbal lard over every moment of consequence. SHUT UP!

Well, this has been a night of high drama. After supper the skies darkened, and the world suddenly got that now for something completely different cast that usually means Big Weather. I walked the dog, passed a neighbor, said “feels like tornado weather.” He agreed: something’s coming. Not half an hour later the sirens went off, which is – literally – unheard of this late in the year. But today was the last day of summer; allow it this parting fit of pique. It went out like few others, too; mid-80s and humid. Everything’s green. Only a few timid trees have jumped the line and turned. Summer still reigns. But tornadoes?

Couldn’t come at a worse time: the heaviest cloud-cover arrived just as the “Lost” season premier began, and I fear turning on the TiVo to find the old “searching for signal” message. Ah well. It’s not like it was when I was young, when TV shows came once then vanished until summer reruns. I can get the entire second season on DVD in a year, if I want to defer joy. Or I can ask the paper’s TV critic for his review copy. Or, I suppose, I can download some program that will allow me to hoover up the show from six distributed servers on college campuses, since I’m sure someone’s already posted the show. But I don’t do that. I do, however, look forward to the day when all TV is on-demand. When I can download the entire series along with a package of clever ads so good I want to watch them. (I go to this site weekly to watch commercials of my own free will, because they’re worth it. Most aren’t. Is there a lesson here? Naaaaah.)

The storm was mostly wind and rain – no great heaven-sundering cracks, no twisters, no cows flying through the air. The irony is that the waterfall in the backyard is finally operational, and tonight we sat outside and enjoyed the sound of rushing water. (They have the thing set on “whitewater,” and it needs to be dialed down; if there were koi in the pond, they would be liquefied by now.) I had to turn the waterfall off when the rain came, since somehow it seemed wasteful. But now that the storm has passed, and Jasperwood stands intact, I think I’ll turn it on and listen to the sound through the open window of the kitchen. Be right back.

Ahh. Man, that’s cool. The water comes out of a stone – they drilled a hole, ran a line. It’s the stone that sat in the back since the glaciers retreated, for all I know. They also found a well when digging the pit for the recirculating bin. A well! But of course; before Jasperwood was built, this was all someone’s farm. Beasts grazed on the slopes of the house. And toppled, bleating, down the hill; it’s steep. Stupid beasts.

Hey, I have nothing much to say; can you tell? Sorry. The first part of the day was spent just enjoying the sun and warmth; after lunch I walked Gnat down to the bus stop, where we had a conversation about sign poles. I checked to see if I was on deck for jury duty (I have to call twice a day this week) and was relieved to find I was, well, relieved. Although I still expect they will <Pacino voice> drag me back in </Pacino voice> on Friday. I went to the office. I went home. I began printing off Joe Ohio, and stopped: no, this won’t do at all. So I wrote and rewrote and printed and reprinted and fixed all the endings that seemed apt when I dashed them off at 4 PM. I learned a few more things about Joe, too.

For one thing, he plays pinball. This is the one in his bar. This is the crapy one-flipper nightmare table they used to have.

After I picked up Gnat today we went to the pet store to buy more fish – and that’s tomorrow’s Bleat, or next Tuesday’s column. After I got six days a week, the two will blur together, I think. It’s possible that the Great Convergence is nigh, and the Strib and personal sites will fuse like Nomad and The Other into a perfect mechanism, which would fine since I am The Creator, and unlikely to start shouting STERILIZE! STERILIZE! around the office. But it’s more likely that nothing will change. Nothing. Just six columns for the paper, three or four Bleats a week, the usual updates, short weekly podcasts (RSS feeds a-comin’) and books every year which may, or may not, be reviewed by the paper for which I work. Stay tuned. In any case, there’s a new Fence; enjoy. Or not. See you tomorrow.

permanent link new this week!
main menu archive
the story so far
matchbook monday dead-tree column screedblog
if so inclined
new book old book next book
Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More