Well, I bring these things on myself, don’t I. But I’ll save that for the usual place.

Nothing of consequence elapsed today, really. And I mean that in the context of my usual inconsequential definition of consequences. Spent the morning doing homework – ten pages, due at noon. One of the pages was a letter to the president; you were supposed to write what you wanted the president to do. (It has to do with coinage, I think; the rest of the assignment concerns dimes and pennies and quarters and who’d on what.) I let Gnat decide, since I thought it would look peculiar if she wrote “aggressively expand the number of nuclear power plants.” She said “Help make the world good,” which I thought was touching. Not make the world good, but help make the world good.

She used to think I knew the president. I suppose all kids think their parents know the president. But I’ve been close; I was on the press train during a whistle-stop campaign in 92, and was ten yards from Clinton at the Democratic convention, when he paid an unscheduled trip to the floor in the middle of the afternoon to check out the room. I should tell that story more often, since I’m sure every time I mention it I get closed; if I repeat it annually I will be sitting on his shoulders by 2011, pulling his hair and shouting “PIGGYBACK RIDE!”

Off to school, then off to lunch: the monthly meeting of the Hellfire Club. Actually, three guys sitting around BS-ing about movies and things. There was Dave, an exceptional illustrator who should have a website but sees no need, and Mike, who came without the robots. (Go to his site; buy his stuff. He’s truly one of the good guys.) We talked about movies and things. Off to the office to file a column; drove to school to pick up Gnat, and cooled my heels in the lobby reading –

“Excuse me!” said a fellow. One of the dads. “I have to ask – did you really like the Fusion razor?”

I wrote a column about the five-bladed razor, and praised it greatly; truly, the best razor I’ve ever owned. I got the one that vibrates like a hummingbird on meth, and haven’t had a single nick. This from a guy who was a quart low after most shaving episodes, simply because my Incredibly Manly Beard is made mostly of iron filaments, and I have to negotiate not only the philtrum but a dimple, and as I said many years ago, shaving your dimple is like painting a picture on a golf ball after it’s gone down the hole. This was the third time today I’d been faced – hah! – with a question about the Fusion, and in each case I instinctively shot a hand to my face to see if I was in any position to tout the blade; what if I had stubble and unshaven patches? But no: just the usual three o’clock stubble.

We had a brief conversation about the razor; I assured him it was as good as I said. This is the problem with writing columns a week in advance – at first, I have no idea what people are talking about. The other day at the church when I dropped Gnat off for choir, one of the Church Ladies said “What if I don’t like the smell of Clorox?” and I had no bloody idea what she was on about. Isn’t this how madness starts? Demonic possession? People walk up and say portentous nonsense? Then I remembered that I’d written a piece about – oh, never mind. Clorox was involved. I always have to apologize and explain that I forget everything I write after it’s done. Everything. Except for the line about the dimple. Hammer that one on my tombstone, I guess. He must have loved that line, he said it so often.

I went back to my book. It’s “Menace in Europe,” which sounds like just the sort of broad alarmist tripe a piddle-pants nutwad like me would like, right? It’s sane and reasonable and written with considerable understatement. The author, Claire Berlinski, lives in Europe, and has been reporting for years on the tensions between old Europe and the angry unassimilated disaffected factions. She also looks at what works and why – the chapter on Marseilles is fascinating and hopeful – as well as how the cultural conflicts described in the lauded novels of the continent are not entirely accurate. (She has a chapter on the novel “White Teeth,” that has a rather unique take: the author of that book based one of her characters on a fellow whose brother Berlinski dated for a few years.) Her style is smart and concise, and she knows the virtues of understatement. Puts one in mind of Revel, he said, in a pretentious voice, adjusting his ascot and swirling his cognac.

Anyway, if you haven’t been following events in Europe, and want an intelligent account from someone who lives there and does not regard America as a sucking chest wound spattering everyone else’s nice white chemise, this is for you. If you have been following events, read this for the reminders, the context, the anecdotes, the –

Well, never mind my convoy of predictable attributes; here’s a blurb:

“One of the wisest and most compulsively readable public intellectuals writing today, Berlinski presents a work of Orwellian foresight and Churchillian conviction that will tear a welcome hole in our complacency and teach us to rethink our political future.”

That’s from Norah Vincent, former LA Times op-ed columnist whose most recent (non-fiction) book detailed her experience as a lesbian who passed herself off as a man. Which is the next book on my list to read.

Okay, it’s Thursday, so that means links.

The Crazy Uke, an occasional character in these bleats, has a website! Disregard the crazy part; the man’s worked financial magic for me three times, and is unexcelled at his profession.

People talk about great movie directors, but often what they’re responding to is great movie editors. This is good editing. (Warning: sound.)

I want this. More than you know. Pity it doesn’t exist.

Well, that’s it for me today. A brief addendum to the Screedblog to reply to points raised in email can be found here, if you care. Now I have to write a column and pop in a DVD that arrived in the Netflix envelope today. A little show called “Firefly.” Never seen it. But it’s time.

Thanks for the visit; see you tomorrow, with a new Diner.


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