Went to Target with Gnat. As usual, I had to go through three carts before I found one that was suitable; the wheels shimmied, and I can’t stand that. It’s like riding a horse with a palsied leg. In each case the tremors did not manifest themselves until I was 20 yards away from the corral – it’s as if the carts think we’ll have bonded by then, and I won’t turn back. But I do. Every time. I must look like an idiot, returning again and again, exchanging one empty cart for another.

The trip took four times longer than usual, since Gnat was in a goofy OH LOOK IT’S SO COOL mood that required me to stand, patiently, while she examined the miles of alluring goods. I’m normally not that patient or indulgent – kids do not understand that whining has a cumulative effect – but she was in a delightful spirits, and there will come a time when she doesn’t want to hang around Target with dad. Soak it up while you can. Besides, the place was full of kids who demonstrated the sort of behavior I never experience – tantrums, weepy fits, load moaning, all the aural manifestations of narcissists in training. I felt for the parents, even though they may have contributed to the character of their wee bairns; at least they weren’t like the Mom I saw downtown on the Nicollet Mall the other day, pushing a stroller, smoking a Blunt. Note to idiots: scented cigars do not entirely mask the aroma of marijuana. Unless enterprising geneticists at Monsanto have come up with ReeferBerry, and we will soon see that as a syrup flavor at the pancake house.

Anyway. We took our time, played hide and seek and dodge-the-cart. (Missed me missed me now you have to kiss me, she’d say, and she would expect a kiss. You want to douse them with a can of Temporal Fixative, so they will always be this age, like this, forever.) We examined the T-shirts – they’re screened T’s, pre-ruined to look like they have been in the wash cycle since 1977, and are almost uniformly stupid or ugly or both. two of them made me HUH right on the spot, and get out the cellphone camera:


When did Target turn into Spencer Gifts? The other was another head-scratcher, albeit an amusing one:

Really? So I guess that whole destruction-of-Alderaan was an inside job, eh. Princess Leia knew! Bail Organa lied, billions died! It was the Midichloriocons! Look, we have him on tape. It’s pretty clear he was responsible. Unless his dialogue was dubbed, which is possible. Hey, maybe there’s something to this.

I wouldn’t be surprised. On the way to Target I was listening to the Medved show; he had a fellow who was parsing the particulars of the Iranian President’s missive. Since this was HATE RADIO, of course, you could expect all the callers to demand the expunging of Persia from the crust of the globe, right? Well, one after the other: callers defending the Iranian president. Progressives who regarded any talk of an Iranian threat as a fear-mongering distraction.  Muslims who accused the host of a Zionist agenda. Right-wing isolationists. Christians who agreed with the Iranian prez: why, this was a sinful nation. Of course, the show always skews towards the disagreeing call, but it was still immensely depressing. Mind you: the guest was against attacking Iran. The show’s topic wasn’t even how to handle the nuclear threat. The topic was the Iranian president’s letter, and the phone banks were full of people who agreed with it.

When your world view is made up entirely of round holes, your mind is a lathe that can turn everything into a cylinder.

The good news from Target? An unexpected appearance of 50s style, without apologies:

And then the grocery store. They had a sale on, God help me, DaVinci cheese. I couldn’t help wonder whether this was a movie tie-in. But no, it’s part of a series of “masterpiece” cheeses, all named after famous painters. The Vincent VanGogh is particularly good, as is the Rembrandt, but I’m waiting for the Dali (looks solid, but it’s actually quite runny) or the Duchamp, served up in giant pink wheels that look like urinal cakes. Or the Michelangelo, aged 80 years and very bitter. Or the multi-artist sampler, called the Vasari. Ba-dum bum! Art history major humor! Can’t get enough.

The store had many Superman movie promotional tie-ins, including Superman Crunch. If you ask me, the notion of Crunch as a cereal descriptor requires the Cap’n; after all, Crunch is an intrinsic attribute of breakfast cereal. It’s the maritime figure who lends distinction to the brand. You know what you’re getting: golden pillows of sugar and grain. The Captain identifies and owns this genre, and has done so uncontested ever since his victory over King Vitamin in the 70s. The box had Superman and the Captain, but it just said Superman Crunch.

I think the demotion sets a poor precedent, that’s all. We’re setting ourselves up for DaVinci Code Crunch (There’s a millennia-old refutation of Jesus’ divinity in every bite! The Pope-shaped marshmallows turn purple in milk!)

Web travails update: I can’t buy any more bandwidth from Apple. Thanks to everyone who suggested torrents, but that part of the world is simply beyond my ken. I’m looking for simplicity, and I generally don’t require anything on this site I cannot reasonably expect the majority of patrons to know about. (I think it’s safe to assume people know about iTunes, for example.) I’ll have to host it on my provider and tweak the .xml code myself.

Or not. I’m in one of those to-hell-with-the-internets moods, frankly. I dropped by a pop-cult site I check a few times a week, and there was a link to one of my Institute updates. Well, that’s nice. Two comments. Curious, I checked; I actually expected “I’m tired of him” or the more common irrelevant tangents that had nothing to do with the site itself. Nay: the first comment took me to task for lameness, because I had written a few lines – duly quoted – which did not meet his standards. Fine. Whatever, pal. But what amused me, in a not-at-all-amused way, was the thrust of his critique: I should stop ruining all these pictures I post with words. I should put up and shut up. Why, they stand alone, these retro delights; why must I talk? The second commentator agreed, and said something to the effect that I had bought into my own story, or something like that. I felt compelled to do this because I was so dearly convinced of the necessity of larding the lily with my own words.

As if this site is some sort of public trust, and I’ve contrived to make everyone visit and wear the Clockwork Orange eyelid-spreaders. Jeebus Crow, I'm tired of the griefers.

In a grim mood, I went back to Quake, but I’m up against a boss, and I generally hate bosses. I hate spending a day getting blown up six thousand times. Oh look, I’m –122% healthy. Ouch. Try again. So I quit and watched a Fatty Arbuckle movie from this new collection of somewhat restored films; keen stuff. I like Arbuckle – he had grace and brio and pluck, by God. Paired with Keaton, he was golden. This one was a 1914 Keystone Kops piece – the Kops are hilarious, if you’re in the mood, and very underrated; the pacing makes the Stooges look like Pinter. They all fall down as if they share a single brain. Anyway, Chaplin makes an appearance as a boxing ref, and I know it’s now fashionable to dump on Charlie for the lachrymose character of his later work, his relentless sentimentality and self-love. Keaton was better! It’s the old Beatles vs. Stones thing. I go back and forth myself, but I always end up admiring Keaton more than I love him, and it’s vice versa with Chaplin. In the case of this film, he simply defines and occupies another level of ability altogether; it’s like he’s a member of a different species. You can’t not watch him. He’s made of mercury. He’s incredibly funny, and it comes from someplace no one else on the screen can reach. His sudden appearance has a galvanic effect, and you can imagine the audience of 1914 – already sore from laughter, already invested in Fatty’s character, already delighted with the sturdy progression of the story – suddenly erupting in cheers at the very sight of Chaplin. It’s that guy! We love that guy. And he’s that guy, and more, from the very second he appears.

When it was done I felt better.

Email lets us send messages across the planet in a trice; VOIP lets people in Anchorage talk to folk in Peru. Satellites overhead ping packets around the globe, and scientists hunched over consoles at NASA listen to the distant hiss of machines we have sent to other planets. It is the golden age of communication.

Today I left a handwritten note weighed down by a rock for the contractors.  Should they show, anyway. It’s my best guarantee of getting my point across. By noon today the water in the top tank was down another inch since the previous night; by three it was down another inch, which means the Oak Island Water Feature, after their repairs, leaks more. The note was simple: It has been one month since you restarted repairs. The project still leaks. The project still drains. Fix it. Now.

I left the note, not expecting anyone to come. After all, it was sunny and warm, a perfect day for working . . . on someone else’s project. Someone else who still has goodwill to be wasted. But when I came back two hours later, the note was gone – apparently they’d showed up to check the water level. This constitutes “work” – not showing up Monday, showing up Tuesday to fill it up, then showing up Wednesday to check the level. As opposed to calling me, say, FRIDAY, and asking if I’d fill it up Sunday and call them Monday morning with the results. But of course I’m thinking like a homeowner, not a contractor. If there’s anyone deaf to the sound of Time’s Winged Chariot, it’s a contractor. Time slows, expands,  moves sideways, becomes a 2-dimensional Mobius loop, refracts into anti-time, wherein the project actually moves backwards.

Anyway, the note was gone, so I expect someone to come by tomorrow and take the thing apart some more and engage in more inefficacious jiggerypokery. They have until June the First.

After that: the nuclear option.

No updates today, except the Quirk. Thanks for stopping by; see you tomorrow.



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