I have been temporarily displaced from my office, as Gnat is playing “Roller Coaster Tycoon 3.” She now sings along with the music, too, so I can hear her warbling away upstairs. Her parks do not have the rigor and symmetrical design of mine, but the sense of discovery is perhaps more acute: no one expects a gigantic nine-story rollercoaster three feet from the front entrance of the park.

So I’m in the kitchen, writing. It’s cold, but having just gotten a fuel bill which was twice the mortgage payment (I exaggerate, but not by much) I am disinclined to turn up the heat. It’s an ordinary night; we went to Chuck E’s, where she hit the jackpot on a game. It’s the device that has a light running around a circle of bulbs, and you try to trap it between two posts. You’re always so close! She nailed it, though, and stood vibrating with glee as the machine spat out 141 tickets. Exhibiting all the classic signs of a compulsive gambler, she decided to go again, this time on an identical machine upstairs with a larger jackpot. I enjoy trying my skill as well, so we took turns – until a big oaf walked up and started shoving coins in the third slot, slamming the button with his big mitt, over and over. You show ‘em, dude! Get that jackpot before any of the other kids do! Gnat wanted to keep playing, but I put a hand on her shoulder.

“Wait until the man has finished playing the game,” I said. He looked up and gave me a blank whatever butthead look.

Just checked Gnat’s new park, which is called the Park Of Fun. She did some terraforming – made a lake and put a bridge over it, which is pretty impressive. I checked the pilings on the bridge, and it goes down about six miles. Well, maybe it’s a Mafia park, and they use the pit for employee disposal.

Heard an interview on the Hughett show with Robert Ferrigno, who’s written “Prayers for the Assassin” – a speculative-fiction novel about America under Islam. I can’t buy the very premise. I read a lot of dystopian lit in college – well, however much there was, which wasn’t a lot. “We,” “Brave New World,” “1984,” the Burgess trilogy of “Clockwork Orange,” “Wanting Seed,” and “1985.” They all had a plausible genesis, more or less.

The least satisfying of the Burgess novels had the most intriguing specifics: government changed back and forth into Gusphase and Pelphase, two different modes of thoughts named, of course, after St. Augustine and Pelagius the Heretic. (I threw in that “of course” for a little undergrad pretention.) St. Augustine believed man was fallen and imperfect; Pelagius believed man was creation of God and therefore perfectable. (Imprecise summations, but that’s how the book deals with the ideas, more or less.) Gusphase is proscriptive, believes our natures are immutable and is wary of human nature’s baser possibilities; Pelphase regards humans as protean and malleable, something you can reshape into a pattern that contradicts or ignores the hard-wired instincts as well as culture and history. (Sound familiar?) In the book, society shifted back and forth between the two ideas with regularity, each purging the other top to bottom. It’s ridiculous, but it made for some interesting arguments over beers. Or would have, if I’d known anyone who read it. “1985” was more plausible – England crippled and abased by faux-prole collectivism, telly and weak-tea sentiment, eventually controlled by trade union bureaucrats and Islamic bankers. The Islamic part was baffling when I read the book in 1979, though – England? Muslim? Eh?

But he saw that coming a long time ago.

So I don’t know about “Prayer for the Assassin” – I don’t doubt he can construct a believable world; he’s a fine writer. But I can’t imagine an America under Islam. Just can’t. Perhaps I just don’t want to, though; the pleasure that comes from reading dystopian novels when you’re young is the haughty smug satisfaction of knowing you and the author know something THOSE OTHER IDIOTS don’t, namely, we are already halfway down the path of fascism and unless we wake up and do something drastic – like, uh, well, unlect (current political leader who isn’t half as smart as me and my friends.) In your 20s you take grim solace in how bad things are, and how few see it; later on, you moderate. There’s good and there’s bad. There’s rocks and there’s water. The world, alas, may not be ending. Now what?

Anyway. There’s a new Diner podcast, and wouldn’t you know it: just as I zoom up to the middle 20s in the iTunes top 100 “talk radio” list, iWeb screws the pooch again. Worst Apple App ever. None of the changes I’ve uploaded are reflected on the main page, but it's in the archives. Of course, that's a version that only saves as a .mov. The MP3 version is here. (I look forward to figuring this out. I really, really do.) The new version appears in iTunes, so if you’re subscribed, great. If not, it’s here. But please go through iTunes if you can. Why, I don’t know. This installment, as usual, is not scripted or planned – as I’m learning, what’s on the menu starts the ideas that lead to the usual nonsense. Enjoy! Thanks for stopping by this week, and I’ll see you Monday.


c. 2005 j. lileks. Email, if you wish, may be sent to "first name at last name dot com."