Intemperate and ill-advised screedblog on the UAE ports controversy today. I'll regret that one, I'm sure.

Gave a speech today, and I can chalk that one up in the “Success” category. Had ‘em rocking and rolling, I did; they loved the funny accents, the physical comedy, the improvisational asides. It would ruin it all to note that they were all five years old, I suppose. Today was the day I read at Gnat’s class, this being the “Read-a-thon” month where every kid is encouraged to consume 16 Curious George books an hour, even if the illustrations are cheap reproductions of animation cels from some ghastly animated show. I also read “Worm Get a Job,” which went well once I settled into consistent accents. I took the occasion to ask the kids for types of jobs, and got all the usual ones – mailman, fireman, doctor.

“An army man is a job too,” said a little boy in a small voice. I said that he was and it was one of the most important jobs of all, and we should be grateful. He brightened. This prodded another boy to tell me had written 100 books about soldiers. Read? No, written. I wanted to say “It’s nice to meet the author of all those Tom Clancy Op-Center novels!” but if there is a definition of “Stupid,” it’s “playing over the heads of five-year olds.” I mean, this isn’t a movie, and there are no cameras rolling. Obvious as that seems, sometimes I wonder how much I think I’m playing to an imaginary audience without realizing it. Too much, probably. Radio does that to you – the audience is imaginary. For all you know the five blinking phone lines comprise your entire audience. But you go on pretending you’re addressing a dark hall whose ever seat is filled.

And if there’s a definition of “Delusions of grandeur,” it’s coming up with that previous paragraph when the subject is “reading to kindergarten students.” Sorry.

I will note that Gnat was pleased to have me there, and introduced me with great pride; one of those time when your heart just melts from all the perfect little sweetness of the moment. Little kid facing her class, introducing her dad with grins and pride. I began by telling everyone I worked for THIS – here I held up the newspaper, and asked how many got the paper at home. (All hands went up.) I told them how important it was, how they could learn about the world, etc. Gnat picked up the paper and showed the back page, which had a half-page ad of a guy with purple-and-red face; looked like he’d been worked over by loanshark hitmen and strapped face down to a spool of barbed wire and bounced down the sides of a marble quarry. Whoa. “LOOK at THIS!” she said.

“That’s a bad rash!” I said, and closed the paper. Of course the kids wanted to see it now. “It’s just an ugly rash.”

That’s what they’ll probably take away from this: a guy came to our class and he works for the Ugly Rash Picture People.

In a way, that’s accurate; everything in the page is a rash. It’s ugly and scratches but it’ll go away, eventually. I mean, you could say the entire Israel-Palestinian problem is a matter of contact dermatitus. If you were Bill Maher, that is. The other night I caught a few seconds of his show on HBO; what a deep, profound thinker. The subject was church burnings. “New Rule!” (That’s his schtick. He has new rules by which to live, apparently.) “If you have tax-exempt status, you don’t get to use the fire trucks.” Oh, by all means. And people who don’t pay taxes shouldn’t be allowed to call 911.

One of those people who sets me on edge. Instantly.

Ran to the office, filed a column, had a brief editorial conference with the DC editors, fixed those problems, then felt that wonderful lifting of the Duty Stone that always signals the end of the work week’s most congested phase. From now on it’s two pieces a day, max.


Nothing but old snow. I went out for the 8 PM cheroot (in case you’re curious, they’re not gigantic Castroesque torpedoes that take forever to consume; they’re thin little things the length of my index finger, and harsh as a Dutch nanny. Panter Mignons, to be specific) and the moon fell on a sheet of old snow in the backyard. Frozen and melted and refrozen and trod upon, perforated with yellow holes. Miserable. That’s February for you. It’s not even going through the motions. It doesn’t care. It’s in Mexico, having a drink with an umbrella in it, phoning it in.

What’s the point of an umbrella in your drink? To shade the ice? To poke out your eye so you’ll clasp your eye and shriek in pain, then realize you can still see, it’s just a poke, and you’re so relieved you have another drink?

Picked up Gnat, went to choir; talked books with another dad. He’s read many books recently, because he travels a great deal. One of those conversations where you can talk about books for half an hour and never find one you’ve both read. He did recommend an old Ken Follett, and I am watching “The Eye of the Needle,” so we were close.

Went home for a small supper, walked the dog, got to work.

Before you check the ACME link, check this out: in the old days before child labor laws, urchins were sent to work in the dark satantic typesetting rooms, making newspapers for cackling plutocrats who ate their weight in oysters every morn!

Attention: there are five copies left at Amazon of this book. The name doesn’t tell you much – it’s a large-format collection of “Good Housekeeping” Disney pages from 1934 – 1944, and an incredible bargain (It’s $20, despite what the ad at left says.) I’m not a raving Disney fan – I love much of the stuff, but it’s Bugs and the rest of the WB gang for me. But if you’re interested in animation, it’s a treasure. More to the point, if you’re interested in typography and layout and the look & feel of 30s publications, it’s indispensable. You note the way WW2 crept into the work – the Disney page becomes “Mickey’s Good Neighbor Page” in ‘43 when South American characters are introduced. These pages were like websites for the cartoons – you’d see the full-page color story in the magazine, then trot off to the theater for the real thing. (If you’ve watched the “Disney Treasures Silly Symphonies” DVDs over and over like I have, every page will be familiar.) The quantity and quality of Disney’s tie-in marketing was enormous and fairly sophisticated, and the book abounds with detail.

Abounds with detail! I should be a perfessional reviewer-tayp persin, Brandeen.

New Quirk, New Acme, New Screed. See you tomorrow.

Oh: the new headphones are perfect. Not a jot of hiss. Not a hint of a tittle of hiss, unless I'm standing by the microwave. Can't wait to use them tonight - so far Donald Sutherland has stabbed six people in "Eye of the Needle," and I'm guessing there's more evil Master-race Nazi-jabs to come.

And on that note, good day!


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