If you know ten people, you can bother them all attempting to sell them  useless ugly greeting cards!


Saturday I had the dreaded Burst of Enthusiasm, where I dervish-whirl through various tasks until I am a spent husk, empty of passions or cheer. I began by tackling the storage closet, so I can make room for the things in the other closet I haven’t opened yet. I don’t bring stuff in until something goes out, and as you might imagine a lot of stuff comes in. So. Some things I cannot throw – old clips, for example. Some stuff I set aside for a year to see if I want to save it – to my depthless chagrin I decided to do Warhol boxes a few years ago, saving that which does not seem worth saving, but somehow sums up a particular time and place. Some things, after all, are meant to be thrown away; what if everyone dutifully complies? What if this item vanishes completely from the face of the earth? On the other hand, why is it up to me to save a Burger King small fries bag with R2D2 on it? Surely some Star Wars completist has the entire set laminated and stored in krypton-filled vaults. And if he doesn’t, well, to hell with him; he should have thought ahead.

My wife was looking through the boxes while I cleaned, and said: “Wine bottle corks?”

Well, they started printing designs on them. They’re interesting.

“Wine bottle corks?”

She’s right. I’ll winnow it down to one. In fact I try to winnow everything down to one. I know I sound like a horrible pack rat, but I’m not, he said, in a wheedling and unconvincing tone. But someone, for some reason, saved the 1968 Texaco credit card I have, and I’m glad they did. Likewise Great-grandfather Newton’s pocket knife, which is very old and may very well have been at Gettysburg, to cite just one object I found in a bag on which I’d written, in 1996, “Old Things.” Very helpful, that; I’m amazed I didn’t add an additional explanatory remarks, like “made of atoms.”

In the box of old childhood books – which of course cannot be thrown out – I found some examples of 60s and 50s design, and got that sinking feeling that says “I must scan these and make a site out of them.” I had already spent a few hours the previous evening scanning money for the revised Curious Lucre section – I’ve always loved that site, and its uncompletedness nagged at me. So when I’d finished with the basement storage area AND taken out six bales of stuff AND straightened the garage I went upstairs to work, and got detoured on the way by the siren song of the bed. ZZZZZZZZZ.

Sweet. Nothing more delicious than a nap, chosen at will, left when complete. Downstairs for supper; then back to scanning. Did about 20 pages of children’s books, pausing occasionally in quiet wonder when a particular picture flipped a switch long forgotten and rusted shut. Four decades may have passed, but I remembered that picture:

The memory had been sitting in a combination of chemicals and sparky-juice somewhere in my head, and it reactivated with surprising force. It wasn’t so much the recognition of the picture as the feeling of familiarity, as if I’d just read the book the other day. The sensation collapses on itself almost immediately, and you can feel the present rush in, almost as if it’s too dangerous to keep this up. You’ll get all confused. In fact, now that I see it again and again, it has lost all effect. Crack that ampule and the scent evaporates for good.

I also scanned much money and redid the index page. No new updates – that’ll come next week, after ACME runs its course.

Sunday came the much-welcome Slough of Despond, the bottom of which is a good place to gauge the heights you scaled the day before. Right before waking up I had a brief and infuriating dream – the pizza deliveryman had brought one pizza, not two, and refused to consider that he was in error. He also refused to hand over the check I’d given for two. He was very evasive, and rather bemused by it all; my threats to call the manager were met with indifference. Well. Fine. I didn’t spent two years calling Davanni’s every Friday to bitch about the lack of sauce for nothing. I called the place, asked for the manager, whereupon the fellow on the phone – who identified himself as the assistant manager – put me through an elaborate series of questions to see if this was worth troubling the manager about. The last question I still recall, along with my answer: “Is the conclusion of this conversation likely to result in additional pizza, or a refund?”

“I will put it this way,” I said. “I do not believe there is a jury in the world that would fail to convict you of not providing sufficient pizza.”

He thought that was funny and hung up. I woke up irritated, and was peevish all morning. I mean, I’d bought 205 pizzas from these people. (In the dream I looked at the receipt, which had a running total of the pizzas I’d purchased from them. It said 205. I wonder what it is really. If it’s 205, it’s off to the convenience store for a lottery ticket. Dreamed numbers are the most potent kind! They have eeeerie powers.)

I went to Southdale for a new cellphone – got a RAZR, and between the rebates and re-enlistment bonus I got it for free. Imagine that! I don’t know how they make any money. Except with the punitive monthly bills, soon to jump by sixty percent when I forget to cancel the trial runs of the interactive features. (Entering a reminder in the calendar program now . . . there.) They sold me the extras bundle, of course; I had to have the Madman Scarab:

This small insect, attached to my head before it burrows in completely and makes me carry out the Will of Khan, lets me imitate true madmen by walking around in public talking to myself. I have no intention of ever using it, but since I like to talk to myself I can clip it on and say what I wish and no one will care. The package also included a leather case that looked like a wife-beater T-shirt for bondage enthusiasts; I will change that soon enough.

Most are horrid. I want an old-style telephone ring – seems at odds with the device, I know, but it says “phone call” in a way that a tinkly midi version of a 50 Cent song does not. To me, anyway. This sound is amusing: yes, that certainly sums up the great strutting power of that tune, no? (Gnat came running into my room and said “I like that!” Hah! I said, and called up the real thing. She began to strike karate poses. That’s my kid. Reminds me of a few days ago when I caught her watching some lousy “Looney Tunes Babies” show or some such piece of suqtitude. Sigh. I got the Roger Rabbit DVD and showed her the cartoon that opens the movie. That is a cartoon, child.) (Don’t write me letters about how I should show her classic WB cartoons; I do. But I hadn’t seen the RR in a while, and it holds up well. Purists be damned! Purists ruin everything.)

Weekend TV reviews: Finally saw “Cinderella Man,” and like everyone who saw it I am mystified why it didn’t do better, and why it’s not nominated for best picture. Perhaps the name hurt it; while it may have been lifted from a Runyon column, it just looks odd, like “Sleeping Beauty Guy” or “Bambi Fellow.” I suppose the marketing was tough - “It’s Seabiscuit, with Punching!” The movie was shot in Depression-O-Vision, a special technique that drains the color from everything, because after the crash most people had to sell all their hues, opting for a general sepia tone – even milk was the color of hay, I understand.

In case you’re curious, I thought it was a marvelous movie; when the credits rolled and the rest of the fellow’s life was summed up in a few terse facts, it was enough to make you weep. “Jack Brannigan served honorably in WW2.” Because, you know, surviving the Depression and getting hit in the head for a living just isn’t enough bother.

TiVo gave me “Air Force One,” which I saw but mostly forgot – what’s to remember, really? But it’s fun. “A roller coaster ride,” as they say. (What blurb will they use when someone sets a movie on a roller coaster?) It has Harrison Ford as the President, which seems natural; Gary Oldmam as a bad guy: ditto. Direction by Wolfgang Peterson, who’s good, and music by Jerry Goldsmith, who would later recycle a few cues for “Star Trek: Nemesis,” but that’s next week’s Diner. It was shot in 1997. It opens with a joint American / Russian spec-ops kidnapping of a head of state, who is one of those super-nationalist Russians we were all twitchy about in the late 90s; he is sent to a very bad and smelly prison. Cut to President Solo, giving a speech that puts forth a new American policy towards terrorists and terror-enabling states:

Peace isn't merely the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice. Never again will I allow our political self-interest to deter us from doing what we know to be morally right. Atrocity and terror are not political weapons. And to those who would use them, your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate and we will no longer be afraid. It's your turn to be afraid.

He is also quite physically fit AND he can fly a plane. This was the sort of person Hollywood wanted for President in 1997. Then they get one, and they completely wigged out. Ah well.

I know a few of you are waiting for the “Firefly” review. Well. I watched the pilot. I should preface my remarks, by way of explanation, with a confession of prejudices. Western stuff doesn’t do much for me – horses, six shooters – and it’s not what I look for in my sci-fi. And I find myself less and less interested in committing to another sci-fi world, since the ones in which I invested anything either disappointed (Star Wars, Matrix) or went on too long (Star Trek. In fact, the only reason the last season of Enterprise was so good was because they went back to the source to explain the first series – a clever move, well done, but not exactly an endorsement of the story’s vitality.) When “Firefly” first came out I read good reviews, and stayed away because I was certain it would be cancelled, and I would be annoyed. There was also a certain amount of Buffyness hanging over the project, and I’d managed to completely miss that one as well. So I watched the pilot Friday night out of obligation, really – arms crossed across the chest, remote in hand on the FF button, looking for an excuse to bail, because it just can’t be that good.

About fifteen minutes in, I thought: well, this is just the best sci-fi TV pilot ever. An hour into it I hit pause, shrunk the screen and hit Amazon to see if they had any Serenity toy ships. I enjoyed every minute. Every half-minute. Sometimes I rewound and did a frame by frame so I could enjoy certain seconds at my leisure. I’m sure there will be lesser episodes and better ones; I don’t care. I love it. And, as usual, I’m late. But at least I don’t have to worry about it being cancelled; as far as I’m concerned, it’s just begun, and it ends with a big movie. Happy day.

New matchbook & Quirk; see you tomorrow.

c. j lileks. email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.