A perfect day; no complaints. Got up, read the paper. In the back of the business section was a story about how some stores may suffer at the hands of online competition; there was a picture of a video-rental joint. Made me recall the last conversation I had with the clerk at the local Hollywood. He’d said “You’re that guy in the paper, aren’t you?” and I admitted that I was. He said his dad was a writer, and named a fellow well-known in the local literary circles. We discussed how to get into the biz, and I advised against journalism school. For that matter, I said, don’t go into newspapers

Oh, totally, no, he said: not even an option. We discussed changing methods of information retrieval, but we’d had that conversation before. Specifically, the absurdity of Hollywood Video, which has to pay for the heat to make this two-story-high room habitable so people can come in and maybe get a copy of the movie they want. And that’s on top of the absurdity of putting all the ones and zeroes in a box that’s twice as big as it needs to be, and has to be stacked face out.

Anyway. Before I read the article I looked at the pull quote, and got a little happy tingle: this article was for me! This guy felt exactly as I did! The quote:

“I cannot enter a video store without detecting the faint whiff of death that saturates the industry . . . .the business model seems so 1985, like selling holy precious internet access by the minute in special stores.”

Then I checked the attribution:

James Lileks, Star Tribune, Nov. 18, 2005.

I cannot tell you how weird that was. It’s one thing to be in the paper, but it’s another thing entirely to find yourself in a pull quote.

No school, so we stayed home until the Target trip. I needed to file two columns in the morning, so I bought Gnat off with Roller Coaster Tycoon, and she amused herself adding flowers everywhere and changing the color of the uniforms on the janitors. Took a crowbar and a string of Black Cats to get her off the machine.

To Target. It had been a while since we went together; I go by myself when I have to, but it’s not as much fun. It’s just duty, and I’m a prole scooping sacks of Victory Coffee (Ingredients: chicory, bark) into the cart. With Gnat it’s an exploration, a test of wills, a story, a link back to things she can’t possibly recall. (Once a year I take the camcorder on our trip, and every time we leave I still see her at age 2, clutching her new Hello Kitty umbrella, grinning in the drizzle.) I headed to electronics first, as usual, just to see what I don’t need and will not buy – but this time I saw something. Phillips wireless headphones. I already have wireless headphones, but they hiss like an asthmatic cat; in order to get a clear signal I have to hold my head just so and make sure I don’t touch any controls, ever. If the output level gets too low, the headphones replace the quiet delicate music with A DEAFENING BLAST OF STATIC that brings back the old days of three TV stations and manual channel-changers: 4, STATIC, 6, STATIC, STATIC, STATIC, STATIC, 11. Once upon a time I had a pair that worked well – RCA brand. If it had just had the original RCA logo I would have married that device. You know the logo: “His Master’s Voice.” The dog listening to a gramophone. I’ve never once seen Jasper Dog look interested when my voice comes from the radio or the computer speakers. HIS MASTER’S FOOT ODOR would be different, but Edison correctly assumed that people would pay money for the reproduction of sounds, not bodily aromas.

The RCAs died. I replaced them with some crap-arsed Sony headphones so sleekly designed they wouldn’t stay in the charging cradle. They had no on-off switch – merely placing them on your head activated the sound. Or didn’t, as it turned out. I replaced these with some Sennheisers, which had the aforementioned hissy problem. I haven’t checked them out yet, so stay tuned for one of those offhand sarcastic reviews you see in Gizmodo with phrases like “extended-range goodness.” (I love Gizmodo, but I like Engadget more; it’s number two, and it doesn’t try harder. It just is. It knows Gizmodo is there, but goes right along with its life. It’s as if that anti-Lazurus got out of its interdimensional corridor and went about its business, and every so often you’d ask Lazarus: say, whatever happened to your doppelganger? The one you were strangling for all eternity? And he’d be all “oh, I saw him the other day at Starbucks, it’s cool,” then change the subject.)

Got new water for the fish, a replacement cartridge for the Lysol Toilet bowl power-wash wand or whatever it’s called (They don’t make the wands anymore, and I should just give up, but no: I buy a new cartridge every trip. On the other hand, I don’t use the thing any more, for fear I’ll run out. It’s absolutely pathetic.) They had my shaving cream in stock: huzzah. They did not have my preferred cola at a loss-leader price-point: fie. We tried on beach shoes, argued over popcorn. I wanted to get the 10-pack of the snack size of Homestyle, which for me is the ne plus ultra of popcorn; it’s a rational portion, absolutely soaked with fat and sprinkled with granules of salt large enough to be visible with the naked eye. Eat one normal sized bag, of course, and you heave. I know, I know: one bag is not a portion. One portion is one cup [unpopped] which yields three cups [popped] which contains 110 calories [unpopped] and 9000 calories [popped with an unpopped kernal failure rate of 16%], portions per bag: 2.71 percent of a bag 420X larger than this one.

I love that stuff. I have one bag on Friday night. O how I love Friday night. Single malt, a cigar, a small bag of Homestyle, then six hours of freebasing until dawn. It wouldn’t be the same without the Homestyle.

We’ll have to go to the grocery store, then. So we did.

They were out of it, too. The entire world, arrayed against my popcorn preferences.

The other day I popped in a cheap DVD of Jackie Gleason public-domain stuff – it had an appearance by the Great One in the 1951 Frank Sinatra show. Dreadful. Gleason gives it all he can, but Sinatra is morose and depressed and flubs his lines; he has all the energy of a wet Kleenex draped off a popsicle stick, which coincidentally he also resembles. What caught my eye was the opening credits:

Never mind how Frankie looks like some cadaverous Joker – note how his caricature echoes the cross-like TV antennae. It almost makes him look like some sort of divine spirit, come to bestow grace and peace and not incidentally some crooning on your house. He is risen, pally. The TV antennae was one of the defining symbols of the 50s, a sign of global interconnectedness that brought a nation together so they could watch Milton Berle cross-dress at the appointed hour, brought to you by a large petroleum supplier. They’re mostly gone now, except for the houses in my neighborhood occupied by people who’ve lived there for 45 years. They still pick up the signals, but they have nowhere to send them.

It was so cold Friday night (HOW COLD WAS IT, HI-YO) that we lost the satellite signal. I’m sure it had something to do with the dish, since the temperature in the satellite’s neighborhood is colder than what we experienced – not by much, it seemed. But it felt like the cold was responsible. The air was simply too hard for a signal to penetrate. But that’s what DVDs are for, so I sat down to see what I’d ordered from Netflix and forgotten. Ah: the third Godfather movie. Had to see it again, since I watched the other two over the last two weekends. It is inert and lugubrious and incomprehensible towards the end, which feels as though we’re watching the entire performance of “Cavalleria Rusticana” in real time. Sophia Coppola is as bad as I recall – she can’t act, she sneers, and you keep waiting for her to put an entire cannoli up a nostril just to show there’s room. Pacino is great, but it’s not enough.

It’s not as cold now, but it’s cold. Little snow, which makes everything looks bare and forsaken. The wind is still set at dog-nose-freezing level, though.

I have more to say, but no time: three columns due tomorrow, and I hope to get some screeding in as well. New Quirk, and the final installment of the Florida motels is up. See you tomorrow.


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