Spring is here. Wife & Gnat celebrated the end of winter by building a snowman. There was no shortage of materials. Winter’s last blast was hard on the trees – busted some limbs on the largish Tree of Indeterminate Ownership (it’s on my property, according to a recent survey, but part of a planting group that seems to belong to my neighbors. No problem; the plants are fine plants. Good upstanding plants. And yes, I check it for marijuana.) A big branch snapped off the bower overhanging the back stairs, which is a pity, and I wonder how I’ll dispose of the useless wood; I suppose I could drag them down to the creek and tell myself “the beavers will use them,” but that would be wrong. I’d pile them with the trash but you never know what they won’t take. I live in fear of my garbagemen; one week we had a good deal of trash, thanks to spring cleaning, and I got a little note. If I needed additional containers or intended to toss off goods at this rate, ask, and ye shall be assessed.

Gah. It’s not like I wheeled out a dead fridge packed with body parts or, worse yet, items that could be recycled. Just a few extra bags, for heaven’s sake. Nothing leaked. Nothing glowed. Nothing moved or moaned. But no!  Ever since then I do my best to tamp things down – as long the lid’s not perpendicular to the ground, I figure I’m safe. Once or twice  a year I forget to take out the bin, though – if it’s ten feet away from the curb and bulging with garbage, they won’t wheel it over and dump it out. Because that would reward my bad behavior, I suppose. Give me the wrong idea about my responsibilities. No, you fill it up for another week. Then we’ll give you the warning.

Once I tried to recycle cardboard. In my simple, village-idiot ways, I figured that smashing all the cardboard down and filing them in a plastic bin was enough. It was not. I needed to lash them with twine. So I did this. They still didn’t pick them up. So I put them in a broken bin I wanted to throw away, affixed a sign reading PLEASE TAKE, and moved them to the south of the garbage can, which recontextualized them as trash. It was still there the next morning. I have no idea which elder god I must propitiate to get rid of the cardboard – and in the meantime the boxes pile up. I think I will end up burying them.

Sunday I drove to Uptown to take some pictures of the antique store. It’s closing soon; they’re having a 20% off sale on everything, and there’s one booth that specializes in the sort of delicious scannables I cannot resist, so I bought some old magazines & catalogs. Also a campaign button from a Rumsfeld Congressional campaign. (When I placed it on the counter, the clerk actually recoiled.) The pictures will be up later in the weekly vidcast. Drove over to the cigar store to get some supplies, and snapped some shots of the old Suburban World theater marquee. I love old movie marquees; who doesn’t? It’s just one of those things that says 20th century America in a fashion that makes everyone smile, and remember.


Ah, well.

Not much of a weekend, really. Wife & Gnat went to a sleepover in the Children’s Museum. Yes, that’s correct: you get to spend all night in a museum, sleeping on the floor. The sleeping portion of th event is preceded by games and pizza, so it’s not as though you show up and hit the marble, but still. Mind you, I’d love to spend a night in a museum, if it was a proper one with actual old art and sarcophagi and medieval armor and Roman statuary. If I were the last man on earth, and could find my way to New York, and the Met hadn’t been looted – many ifs, I admit – I can see settling in to the museum as a permanent address. Those steps would be hell, but it’s not like you’d be going down every morning for the paper.  A Children’s Museum, however,  is more of a Funatorium. You are encouraged to touch things, which is poor training for subsequent museum visitation.

Since I knew they’d be sleeping on the floor, I went to Target for an air mattress. Also a small pump to inflate the thing. They needed a donkey to get the supplies to the car. I waved goodbye; they said they’d call, and I went upstairs for a Big Night Alone, which usually means watching TV without the headphones, in the living room. While I worked upstairs I finished the Dick Cavett Comedy Legends collection – Jack Benny, who always reminds me of my Grandfather – perhaps because he watched Jack and loved Jack, and was bald and had black glasses. Carol Burnett appears on another show; my mother loved Carol Burnett, although she thought the show sometimes got a little raw. Who didn’t love Carol Burnett? So cheerful, so ordinary. Bill Cosby showed up, and while he justly gets lampooned for the heeba-habba-whatza vocal tics in his monologues, he put them all to good use in a long story about playing with a jazz band; he ceased to speak actual English after a while, and just heeba-habba’d the action in a neat little parallel of the very jazz he was describing. He was nothing like the smiley Jell-O salesman, either; this was early-seventies lo-fro black-glasses Serious Cosby, and it reminded you what a sharp fellow he was. Everyone in our extended family had the Cosby comedy records. Everyone loved them. Especially 200 MPH, in which he test-drove a very fast auto, nearly killed himself, and concluded by telling the salesman to “take these keys and give them to George Wallace.” Everyone laughed uproariously. I had no idea what they were talking about.

Lucille Ball also shows up, and you can smell the cigarette smoke from 30 years away. She did not give the impression of being a particularly pleasant person.

I scanned and scanned and resized and scanned and listened to the interviews; I listened to some old radio shows, including “I Was A Communist for the FBI.” I’ll post one of those the next time I have a down day – or perhaps I should just make every Thursday old-time radio day? Possible. Then it was movie time: “A History of Violence,” a well-regarded “actioner” starring Viggo Mortenson. The only distinguishing feature is the opening sequence, one of those long unbroken takes that directors love to do. It has a creepy, ominous languor that fills you with absolute dread without giving you any particular reason. The film was okay; mid-level noir. Ed Harris was superb, if that’s not a tautology. It’s a David Cronenberg film, and he’s one of my least favorite directors. This seemed like his bid for mainstream acceptance; can’t blame him for trying. Everyone wants a hit.

Topped it off with “Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” which I hadn’t seen. All animated movies, except Pixar ones, are 17 minutes too long, and this one was no exception. I can only take so much clay. But my flagging interest happened before the last reel; I stepped outside for a cigar and let it roll for a few minutes, came back, and had a cracking time with the final 15 minutes. You learn something about animation by studying Gromit – he has no mouth, yet he must emote; so it’s all in the eyes. But his eyes are often in the deadpan position. But: it’s the fact that they have previously expressed emotion that makes the absence of expression so expressive. The type of emotions his eyes produce are rather interesting, too - surprise, alarm, suspicion, conviction. Emotions of the mind more than the heart. Wallace has eyes and a mouth and fingers, but his expressions are monotonally happy.

When Gnat came back I told her I’d watched the movie, and her response was interesting: What did you think? Not “I like that” or “That was fun.” She was actually soliciting my opinion in a conversational way. I wanted to say “the main plot point was no surprise, since you’d already told me the identity of the Were-Rabbit last October,” but I let that slide. I said I enjoyed it, and I liked the bunnies, who were cheerfully anarchic and idiotic.

What’s anargic?

They don’t play by the rules.

Oh. It was sad at the end, wasn’t it? When he died. Interesting that she remembered that, because it did seem like Wallace was seriously dead. Not one of those cartoon deaths were Xs appear in the eyes and the arms and legs bolt upright, but slow pained gurgling expiration.

Yes, but cheese brought him back to life.

Uh huh. But that doesn’t happen in real life. Just in stories. She held up her drawing. You like it? It’s a diner!

So it was: the two of us sitting at a table, with big glasses of ice cream. And two round microphones.


New Quirk & Matchbook; see you tomorrow.



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