LILEKS (James) the bleat

Had a book signing at the Mall of America Saturday. Imagine my surprise when the kind store manager handed me the microphone and turned on the amp. Huh: wha? I looked at the sign; it said “Talk / signing.” I did not get that memo, as they say. So I blathered on while a HUGE Christmas band holidayed away in the adjacent rotunda. Got to talk to some fine folk and sign some books – and thanks to all who came; given that it took me 20 minutes once I entered the ramp to find a fargin’ parking spot, I can only salute you for your effort. I know I was ready to murder after ten minutes in the ramp. The thing moves, as Galileo said; when the cars hit the speed bumps the entire ramp shudders. And it’s a big ramp. Seven levels, each the size of Connecticut. You imagine the entire structure pancaking down around you - or you would, if you weren’t burning hot hate-holes into the neck of the person in the car nine vehicles ahead who has stopped to wait for someone to pull out. It goes without saying that you would hold up a 166-car line on the off chance someone is pulling out, but this person? Stopping? Here? Now? Instead of driving ahead to the promised land of the upper levels, where all the spots are open and milk and honey flows and conveyor belts whisk you inside while houris and eunichs prepare fig smoothies? GO! GO, YOU IDIOT! I HAVE TO SIGN BOOKS! MAKE WAY! BOOKS MAY BE TEMPORARILY UNSIGNED or SIGNED AT A TIME LATER THAN THE SIGNAGE ASSERTS!

I was early.

So I went to Macy’s to investigate colognes. I don’t wear much – partly because I sit next to a chap who hives up if you wear fragrance. Real deal, too; I’ve sat next to him for six years, and I’ve seen what the more outgoing members of the Fragrance-American community do to his well-being. But mostly I don’t like cologne. It fades. It turns. In the end it all ends up smelling like Brut or some fresh citrusy anti-Brut, and it gets on your shirts and makes you feel like a gigolo when you take the shirt off. I tried a few; nothing pleased. I’ll stick with my Eucalyptus-Spearmint profile, gathered from Bath & Body Works soaps and shampoos. It has the smell of a barber shop in 1913. It’s manly, in the sense that it takes a real man to rub a wet koala all over his body. But I know that someday they will stop making it, and I will cease to have the same faint aroma I have today. That’s an odd thought, but true. Whereas guys will smell like some variant of Brut forever. They may call it something else – Turb! Urtb! Rutb! – but it’s a horrid hogo favored by too many gents to ever go out of style.

After the signing I went to the Apple Store, which had the same zoo smell as the Southdale one. Why? Because it’s JAMMED with humanity, and a certain percentage appear to exude funky trouser-brut musk. These people generally do not go to Victoria’s Secret, and even if they did I’m sure VS has hidden atomizers that spray small atoms comprised of Gisele Bundchen’s sloughed-off skin cells into the store. Apple stores never started stinking until iTunes went cross-platform! Right. Anyway. I bought a device that will help me get better audio in the podcast. Did not have to wait in line; a fellow with sixteen Borg additions hanging off his body scanned it, scanned my card, entered my email into a PDA, and bade me farewell. “Your receipt will be emailed to you.” First time I’ve heard that. Brilliant idea!

Of course, this requires the email to be entered correctly. Apparently the fellow boffed the dodo here, because ten hours later I have no email. This is a problem, since the device stinks and has to be returned. But we’ll get to that.

Watched “12 Angry Men,” which was definitely oversold; I’d say you had three angry men, with the rest being in various states of irritation and peevishness. Gripping Drama, though. Always enjoy seeing John Fieldler, the archetypal Little Man – apt he later became the voice of Piglet, and the more you see him smiling his way through sunny Little Man roles the more you appreciate the brilliance of casting him as the vessel for the ancient spirit of Jack the Ripper. The movie also had Jack Klugman as an earnest guy from the ghetto, which tells you how that particular word has changed its definition. Bonus points for E. G. Marshall, who is the exact definition of the dad you do not want to see when you pick up your date for the first time. Lee J. Cobb makes Stallone faces for most of the movie, and his last noisy scene is utterly unconvincing; the movie falls apart right there, but you don’t quite mind.

I have a dim memory of slide projectors, and it’s mostly disappointing. The projector was hot, and I was warned not to touch or stare directly into the light, lest I be burned or blinded or both. The pictures were upside down half the time, and usually blurry pictures of stuff I had already seen, having lived it. The only part I enjoyed was the screen itself, the strange shimmery fabric that slid out with a whoosh unlike any other sound in the house. It glistened, as though made of diamonds. It was lovely to look at, and it almost seemed to be a disappointment to put up a picture of me in my first-day-of-school clothes.

I thought of that today as I tried to download the latest batch of video for editing. The program stuttered – out of disk space. Dang. Well. I have three gigantic video projects that can’t be burned to DVD, because no such device yet exists to handle this particular type of video. They sit on my second internal drive. But! I bought a LaCie external drive to back up the projects until I can burn them. But! I do not trust any storage medium, so I’d better save the project to tape. (When it comes to backup I am a belt-and-suspenders-and-beltspenders sort of person.) So I tried to save. But! I had insufficient space on the drive – apparently it needs a few cubic yards of platter terrain to assemble the project. Fine: move the Old Time Radio back up to the LaCie. But! The LaCie chokes, and delivers the dreaded –36 error, which means “something happened, and I don’t know what, but it’s not good, unless it’s nothing. Try again. Or reformat everything and try again. Or burn it all and move away to an abandoned Anastazi cave where you can etch your project in flat stone with a sharp stone. Anyway, good luck.”

I dumped all the Old Time Radio on the main hard drive. But! This means I had no backup. And if there’s anything I can tell the People of the World, besides the fact that we would all be better off if everyone recalibrated the parameters of their auto-tightening routines on their sphincters, it’s this: ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP. Because you never know. You just don’t.
So. I could burn everything on DVDs, or transfer to another portable backup drive I use for triple-tier redundant backups. (Computers, you realize, are often the only things that keep anal-retentive compulsive types from running to the grocery store and making sure all the labels face front. All of them) I went with the DVD option, because it makes sense. If the house burned down tomorrow I would be missing all my 1944 Great Gildersleeve episodes. Oh the pain. So after I’d backed them up I remembered what began this, namely, the drive that didn’t work. I tried it again (yes, yes, yes, I disconnected all possible funky firewire devices and used an Apple cord; what do you take me for?) I attempted to copy.

ERROR –36! This is what you get when you die and end up in Limbo. Speaking of which: I’ve been reading that the Church is thinking of doing away with Limbo, and just the headline itself made me wonder how such a thing is done, theologically. The Church would have to admit that Limbo never existed in the first place, so those who had their inevitably destination already prescribed would be there. Otherwise you have to say apologize to those who would have flown straight up, and break the news to those who would have gone straight down – and in the latter case I imagine there would be lawsuits, assertions of squatters’ rights, unlawful detaining, etc. Although I imagine Satan would enjoy watching the Limbo Community sue God; it would be like spring training for his next batch of middle managers. But I digress. ERROR –36!

Ran some disk repair utilities. The disk was fine. Did all the things you’re supposed to do. Only response: reformat the drive. BUT! It had the only copies of some backup backup backups. By which I mean: disk images of the monthly family movies. Well aware that optical media are fragile, and not wanting to have our family history locked to antiquated formats unreadable some day, I have been working on pickling a system that will always play the family DVDs, come what may. I have copies of the family movie DVDs at the office – the usual off site backup – but I also wanted compressed archives of the disk images. (Isn’t this fascinating?) So I’ve been chewing through that pile off and on. Had 20 GB of those. What to do? I know – see if the LaCie works with the laptop. It does! Huzzah! Transfer! Backup! All’s well!

BUT! If the LaCie works with the laptop, why not with the mainframe?


At this point, you’ll be happy to know, I said to hell with it, went downstairs, made supper for all, and then we put up the Christmas Tree. We bought it earlier in the afternoon. First step: snip off the cord that was still on the car’s window frames from last year. Second step: drive to the lot. We buy our CHRISTMAS trees from the BOY SCOUTS who have their operation in a CATHOLIC CHURCH parking lot! Take that, George Clooney! (Entertainment Weekly, incidentally, has this synop of “Syriana.” “A dense, proudly complicated drama of geopolitical intrigue that has a lot of big, important things to say about big, important things [oil, the CIA, the media, everything] and doesn’t care whether audiences understand what’s being said. B-.” Translation: a didactic, incomprehensible mess based on the 437th post in a Democratic Underground post about Cheney, but it sticks it to the Man, so we can’t give it a C+.) The crop was shorter this year, but the prices were not adjusted accordingly. Brought it home, let it relax, and strung everything tonight. Gnat had a delightful time; I’ve never seen her more excited about Christmas. She made a Gingerbread House with Mommy this afternoon, and gazed at it with love throughout the day. There’s nothing like a five-year-old’s delight about these things: I just can’t wait for Christmas! And she means it.

But of course:

I put on my Santa hat, as the tradition requires, and found many items that had no particular history or emotional resonance. Oh: last year’s post-season sales. Right. Well, the tradition starts here.

Went upstairs to work, and encountered a mess: camcorder, laptop, two drives on the desk, cords everywhere. Oh. Right. Got back to work. Wiped the LaCie. Reformatted. Tried to copy. ERROR –36. At this stage, if the thing worked I wouldn’t trust it; once they go bad on you, the relationship is never the same. But if I could just get it to work here, I’d be happy. (The original goal, backing up the 65GB September movie to tape, had long been forgotten.) Plowed through the Apple support sites; realized I might have the dreaded Outdated Drivers. Got said drivers. Installed. Now I’m going to go upstairs and see if it works. (I’m at the kitchen table now, listening to Holiday Music. Most Christmas music of the modern variety is dreadful. And I’m looking at you, Sir Elton. I’ve heard more emotional readings from a Morse Code relayer.) Stay tuned tomorrow. If you can bear the excitement.

One of the things I’m trying to back up, incidentally: digitized slides. O the irony.

New matchbook and quirk; see you tomorrow.