Lovely thunder; a nice evening storm rolling in. Or rather back around. It rained a bit around four PM, which is no doubt the reason the contractors never showed up; they could smell rain a’comin;, they could. Got a pain in my goiter an’ my shin-bone’s a-throbbn’ – no sense turnin’ a spade today, boys.


Comrades! All records of production have been broken! I am pleased to be announcink the first six-column Monday, a heroic effort that will live forever in the annals of the people! I’m serious – I had to file three this morning alone. Naturally, I woke up after six hours of sleep and couldn’t return to slumber; tossed and worried, and nothing in the mental arsenal could coax me back into the velvet womb of sleep. Eventually I did fall asleep, and was treated to a press conference in which an urbane, bemused George-Plimpton-type was fielding questions about a new rock opera, something he obviously held in mild contempt. One of the reporters – Rolling Stone, of course – wanted to know whether this great sci-fi concept album, “Year Zero One: The Diary” was the start of a multi-disk project. The Plimptor said he hadn’t the faintest idea. I checked my promo handouts, and saw that the project was indeed called “Year Zero One,” complete with a 10th grade illustration of a rocket ship penciled on a notebook.  Such was art in our time.

I woke; did my morning calisthenics, such as they are, used the new microwave, and got fingerprints everywhere. Good news: they come off easily. Bad news: wiping down the buttons means starting the microwave. (The microwave isn’t going back, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find why it nags me. I think that’ll be the movie of the week. The concert footage was underwhelming – not surprising, since I was shooting TV monitors – and I have an idea for the movie that will amuse a wider audience, such as it may be.)

Anyway. The inexhaustible Teachout on Monday had a few notes about silent movies, and how they don’t speak to him. One of those instances of art that’s lost its language, even though the genre remains. Me, I love the stuff, but I understand the impatience, and sometimes I find myself enjoying the films not as a drama or comedy but an unintentional documentary. What suburban street is that? Is that sapling now a towering oak? Who belongs to those ghostly faces that slide past in the streetcar, and what became of them? Is everything in this image of a city street now gone? Surely inside those windows were men and women going about their lives, chewing on a pencil, digesting a sandwich, worried about a lump or a lover, wishing the person on the phone would shut up so they could use the lav.

It’s like getting a satellite photo of ancient Rome – it would tell us so much, but it would leave out 99 percent of what we really want to know.

But that one percent still tantalizes and teaches, doesn’t it? If nothing else, it tells you what people found funny or sad or shocking. And when you read some grim scolding article about how  America frowned on independent women until the glories of the sixties changed EVERYTHING, you can recall Clara Bow as a single woman, a shopgirl in the big city in the 20s, held up by the entertainment industry as the gold standard for brash clever modern femininity. (The other gold standards being the dutiful wife or the stolid weepy sexless fifty-year-old Irish Ma.)

After I filed the copy I picked up Gnat from school -  Spanish class is over, so I now have an hour less in which to work – and we took Jasper to the vet. Crowded waiting room, redolent with unhappy dog and a splash of terror-pee. There was a min-pin with his face contorted in a permanent sneer; breed those things with a bulldog and you’d have a perfect Peter Lorre dog. A rambunctious yellow-lab pup, all paws; a raggedy dour mutt whose elderly owner had one (1) curler in her hair. A hairless cat staring with wide eyes at all the dogs: what the hell? I’m serious, what the hell? Jasper strained at the leash; he  whined and yawned (a sign of nervousness in dogs, frequently misunderstood) and whined some more. The doc checked his heart and said he was being a bit of an actor, since his heart rate was absolutely normal. He was just unhappy, that’s all. This is the Place of the Poking. His weight is good, his eyes are fine, he’s in tip-top shape. Eleven years old, the furry thing. We went outside, and he peed on the building, the equivalent of an old man stepping outside the clinic and firing up a Lucky.

Took him to the liquor store. It’s the equivalent of taking a kid to the toy store after the doctor visit. They have dog treats. He hadn’t been there in a year, but he went to the check-out, stood on his hind legs, put his paws on the counter and barked once: gimme.

After that, Taco Bell. Gnat wanted a taco for supper, and I was in no mood to cook. There were four teens at the adjacent table, laughing and being teens; Gnat viewed them with an equal mixture of admiration and amusement, with a little contempt thrown in. It’s our secret word: teenagers. She laughs at them, but it’s never whole-hearted, and I wouldn’t expect that it should be. They are the favored breed, the golden class with cars and phones and pierced ears.

Speaking of which: she handed me this the other day:


But I explained why. Too young. Later. No rush.

Anyway, the teen boys were being goofy and stupid and gross; the teen girls were being annoyed and outraged. “Why do you act like that?” one of them asked repeatedly. I wanted to lean over and say “because you still hang around them no matter how poorly they act, hon.” On and on it went, getting louder and louder; the boys were trapped in a goof-loop that completely excluded the girls, who tried all the harder to be one of the boys. As we passed the table on the way out, one of the girls huffed “You tried to rape me, I don’t know why that’s so funny.”

And the boys huh-huhed some more.

Off to soccer, where I talked to Actual Soccer Moms. Gnat blocked a shot; I was proud. She was thrilled I was proud. My wife showed up to relieve me – I had a few pieces I had to write – and  I walked home in the warm spring light. And wrote three more pieces?

Well, no. I played some Quake 4. It reminded me again of something I felt in Quake 2: the unbearable loneliness of Stroggos. That’s the planet on which you, the unnamed soldier, are fighting the bad guys. In Quake 4 the detail and scope are astonishing; I’ve enjoyed this far more than Doom 3. But as with Quake 2, there are moments in which you’re all alone in an empty place full of mindless machinery, clanking away. The world ahead, the rooms not yet visited, do not yet exist; they will exist when you pass through the door and the code generates the space. But the places you have visited do exist; you can go backwards and tour them all until you reach the door that brought you into this level. All your foes have been slain. It’s just you, the rooms, the sounds, the program. You can stand there and watch things happen; time passes, in a way it cannot pass in a novel or a movie. It passes because you are there; it exists because you are there.

If the first person games of the 90s were the silent films, these are the early talkies.

While I bow to the OG vodkablogger, and seek not to tread on his turf, I do enjoy my vodka. Even more I enjoy Vodka marketing. How do you differentiate your product from the other flavorless clear spirits, eh? Vodka lovers may have noted my thumbs up to Reyka (sound warning), the Icelandic vodka (it’s strained through ground-up reindeer horns!) I must now wave you off the flavored versions of Svedka. I have a gun. Don’t make me use it. Really. Svedka itself is good for the money; it’s a sub-premium price point, which one way of saying it’s cheap, but it does not come in a plastic bottle and will not remove varnish if you spill it. The makers decided to go with the flavor-up-front model, which some like; me, I want the flavor in the back of the room, shooting me the index finger with a wink. Hey, pally. The Svedka flavors are aimed at those who do not want subtle vokda – the cloy palloi, if you wish. There’s a Clementine, which is not good, and a Citron, which is less bad. The bottles look nice, though. I recommend buying them, putting them on the shelf, adjusting the halogen spots to bring out the painted fruit, and leaving them alone forever. On the other hand, I highly endorse the mildly naughty Svedka site, which, if nothing else, should cause those incestuous Bjorkbots to consider seeing other cyborgs.

No such reservations for Tito’s, a “boutique, handmade vodka” (translation: crappy label) from Texas. It’s made from corn! Hail corn; you can put it in your car, drink it, eat it. Is there anything it cannot do, aside from being broken down by an infant’s digestive system? This stuff is smooth. Light body; a few tendrils of jet fuel up the nose afterwards. Inexpensive, too. Recommended.

As for this, I don’t even want to begin to think about it. I would buy a bottle only to put it next to a much better vodka for 30 years or so. Hi-yo!

 New Quirk and, of course, Motels. Again, two states this week; I really want to finish this thing. Thanks for showing up! See you tomorrow.



c. j. lileks 2006. Email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.