Today I’m closer to home – working, such as it is, at the local Starbucks. (“Where the WiFi Isn’t Free!”) There’s a fellow outside the video store, standing on the street, rapping at the top of his lungs. What compels him to keep it real at this particular location I have no idea, but what really completes the picture is the small son standing a few yards away, regarding his father with slight confusion. There was another child in a baby carriage, but I didn’t see his expression. I have no idea what the man was talking about, but he certainly seemed secure in his opinions. I think I can safely say that any suckas in the area should take note, and not attempt to assert that their skills are equal or superior.

A rainy day, with occasional snow. It’s nice in here – Starbucks has gradually changed its look & feel, with mid-century modern illustrations in coffee hues, small-combo jazz on the speakers (the ruminative, 2 AM sort of jazz, the type they use in movies to establish a night-owl vibe – and in movies you always start with a shot of the horn player, pull back, show the piano player nodding wisely, the drummer lost in his own brush-stick reverie. And then they pull it down after 20 bars and cut to the bar, where the hero is talking up a woman with a beehive, one of those slightly-damaged but elegantly dressed beehive-brunette jazz fans you find in movies.) A nice early spring rainy-day mood. I wish I had a different view than a gas station, though.

A different gas station would be okay.

There’s a big display by the door. “We’ll Help You Brew Great Coffee At Home,” it says. Below, stylized drawings of a coffeemaker, a bag of beans, and a cup. The helpful steps are thus described:

  1. Grind
  2. Brew
  3. Enjoy

Never would have figured that out. Here I’ve been enjoying first, then brewing, then pouring the water into the mill.

Frankly, I’m tired of grinding my own coffee, but what can you do? I like to grind it fine and grind it fresh, so I’m stuck.

The music has now switched to some mumbly troubadour who hopes we won’t notice the resemblance of this bit of mincing mopery to a Led Zep acoustic tune, right down to the recorder. (Ah: he just tossed in those brisk tragedy-of-the-banal Eleanor Rigby strings. What would pop music sound like if the Beatles had never joined up? What would have happened if they’d come along 10 years earlier – would they have jump-started sort of generational conscousness that made the 60s happen ten years early, or would they have conformed to the sounds of the era, avoided drugs, and turned out nothing but perfect happy-pap pop for the rest of their days? )


So far so good, I guess; wrote one column, went to work. Noted an interesting story – well, not interesting at all, in a way, but what’s behind the tale I find illustrative. They’re building a hospital in a northwestern suburb, and everyone’s happy; nearby hospitals are a bit too hard to reach when the traffic’s bad. The area has grown quite a bit in recent years, so the lack of fast access has become more acute. Well, you think, bravo! Go, New Hospital.

Well, there would have been a hospital in that part of town already, except that the state forbid it. There was a law passed 20 years ago that forbade new hospital construction, because everyone was worried about an oversupply of beds. (Only in America.) Getting a new one built required the approval of the legislature, and as you might expect they did not get out the big Gordian Knot Slicer and shout MAKE IT SO with a single voice. The local hospital companies were keen to enter this particular market, so they’ve been trying to do something about it, buying up land, presenting plans on bended knee. It will finally be built, but years late. And yet I suspect there will be legislators at the ribbon cutting, happy to accept accolades for having made it possible.

Yes, I believe that private hospital companies should be able to build a hospital on land they own without the approval of the state. Call me a crazy anarchist, I guess.

(Disclosure: my wife works for a large health-care company, which naturally means my opinion should be disregarded.)

The other day, coming back from the grocery store, we saw the results of a minor car crash. The participants were up and walking around; no one seemed hurt. I had to admit to slowing down to take a look, though. I know this is regarded as some sort of perverse behavior that qualifies me for membership in the mob at the end of “Day of the Locust,” but in defense of all car-wreck gawkers:  there is something quite compelling about crashed automobiles, providing no one’s been hurt. It’s the curiosity of seeing something sundered, something we expect to be solid and whole. If you spent your life in a world of eggs, watching them flow past in an endless chaotic stream that always threatened to smash into catastrophic mayhem but never did, you’d stop if you saw a broken yolk.


Thursday nights are heck; no wonder I love sweet wordless Fridays. After I left the coffee shop I hit the video store for Capote, and conversation with the movie geeks. One of them was shelving copies of “House of Wax.” He’s the resident film GENIUS who knows EVERYTHING, and is absolutely unstumpable. I enjoy talking to him.

“Can’t have enough widescreen editions of ‘House of Wax,” I said.

“Might be a run on them,” he said.

“What the remake really needed was a Charles Bronson cameo,” I said.

“Yeah. Or maybe Chuck Norris.”

Ah hah! AH HAH! GOT HIM!

“Well, if the script accepted the rules of Chuck Norris, maybe, but Chuck Norris wasn’t in the original House of Wax. Charles Bronson was.”

He paused, stopped, got the expression of Nomad confronted with the realization that his creator was imperfect. If Nomad had an expression, that is.

“He was the Igor character,” I said, twisting the knife.

“Yeah!” Now he saw it. “Of course.”

“I think he had a name like Charles Bronsonski,” I added. “But you’re right, Chuck Norris would have been great.” And I walked away, whistling, feeling like the elderly sensei who just put the puil on the mat.

Went home. Made dinner: fish. Did the Hewitt show. Had a limited time to do the Diner, so grabbed at straws. At the very end of the show I realized I had missed a perfect opportunity to link the show to the subject – you can’t tell where I trailed off in disgust and slapped my forehead, because I recut the segment. But, oy: talk about missing an opportunity. So. I went back and recut the opening, one eye on the progress bar – had a 30 second window to set the stage. Overall it’s a failure, because there are no callbacks in the middle of the show, and it brings to mind those good old days on the air when I didn't get any calls. But it’s free and better than nothing, I suppose. The iTunes feed will go to those who subscribe; the Diner site with the subscription button is below, and you don’t need an iPod to “enjoy”  the episode and the embedded art will play in your browser. The MP3 feed is here.

If you don’t know what this is, well – this might not be the best example, because it’s talkier than most. But the Diner is simply 25 minutes of conversation and curious music with some sort of stupid theme. I’m sitting at the counter; you’re sitting at the adjacent stool. We have a few coins and there are new songs on the jukebox which may or may not have anything to do with what we’re discussing. That’s all. The episodes are not planned or scripted – I start with one theme, and see where it goes. That’s all. Nothing special. 

Now to lay out and upload everything – no small feat – and write another column. I’d write it tomorrow afternoon, but I’m going to a lunch where my old boss, Deborah Howell, is speaking, and I haven’t seen her in years; can’t wait to cuss her out and be cussed in return. She’s a remarkable individual, and I owe a large chunk of my career to her.

See you Friday!

[For the fans, the weekly Firefly review.  Saw “Our Mrs. Reynolds,” which many had noted was a favorite show. At first I wondered why, since it seemed a bit heavy on the Western stuff. But once it settled into the light comedy I thought it was amusing  - again, it’s the writing. Wheedon managed to make each character amusing in the style of that character, which is not as easy at it looks. (I mean, it is, if you’re good; I should say it’s a talent, not something that can be achieved by grunting and effort.) Then of course it becomes something completely different, and what had been an excellent version of a fairly ordinary sci-fi story becomes an excellent version of a different fairly ordinary sci-fi story. And it’s all the same story. At the end, if you wish, you consider where it began and where it concluded. It started in a buckboard held up by men on horseback, and ended with a spaceship flying safely through a disabled electromagnetic pulse generator. Didn’t seem odd to the characters; why should it seem odd to you?

Again, it’s the anti-Trek low-tech world. When you’re flying into a giant spider trap, you can’t point to your tactical officer and command him to fire phasers, knocking out the tractor beam. Because there aren’t any phasers and there isn’t a tractor beam – there’s some wires jammed together under the console of your ship that keep you from steering. So what to do? Well, fire a rifle at the thing, then take out the windows and space the bad guys. 

Try that, T. J. Hooker.]




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