Well, that’s one tree that won’t be giving me any grief. The arborcidists showed up at noon: three guys, all tall and thin. I guess to catch a tree you have to think like a tree. One of them shinnied up and hacked off the limbs, and let me tell you: it takes a certain sort of fellow to lean back in a sling and operate a chain saw while suspended 30 feet in the air. After the tree was limbless, and no doubt totally freaked out – what’s this about? What did I do? I’m not dead! Watch! I’ll extrude some sap! I’ll be greener! I promise! – the big chainsaws came out, and there was nothing but stump in ten minutes. To complete the gruesome scene, they were actually shredding the branches before they chopped the tree down, which seemed cruel.

After they left the UPS man came with two presents. One was a surprise: something I ordered and forgot about. I hate to admit this, but it was from the Danbury Mint. One of those “Collectible” outfits that advertise in the glossy ads in the Sunday paper, the ones that spill out like slick fish guts when you toss the paper on the table. . Back-page Parade magazine sort of stuff. You usually associate those companies with kitschy figurines of Indian maidens with wolves (“Moonheart: a stunning rendition of a maiden and her companion spirit, in bisque”), or plates with pictures of John Wayne (“Relive the days before the biopsy that sorta put a damper on it all”)  - but this was different. This was Mickey’s Diner. And it lights up inside! Having been there many times, I couldn’t resist, so I ordered and forgot. Now here it was.  I put it together, and put it on a shelf, where it will sit for years, noticed only when I dust.

It came with a certificate of ownership, so if there’s ever any dispute, I’m covered.

The other box was a keyboard. A small one – 49 keys, but they’re in the right order; none of that off-brand Chinese junk with six black keys in a row. It’s part of my vow to do something other than what I’m doing, which is the same old thing; I want to get back to music, and I need a keyboard for Garageband, something I can stow in the closet. I plugged it in and started fooling around, and in fifteen minutes I had this. (1.6 MB) Don’t laugh. Okay, laugh, but really: 15 minutes, and it made my day. Okay, it sucks. Don't listen to it. I'll do better next time. SORRY.

Other news:

Syd Barrett is dead. I’m guessing most people who knew who he was had never heard a note of his music. (I said most.) They haven’t missed much. Pink Floyd was one of those groups whose early music was different from the famous stuff; if you liked the spare stoner-operas, the psychedelic stuff may not have appealed; I suspect it’s as different as Bruckner and mariachi music, and without David Gilmour and the World’s Largest Guitar, it’s probably weird twee stuff, Genesis for guys who had to repeat shop class. But of course that’s just my opinion; I think most of the psychodelic music of the 60s was utter rubbish, and I have enough of it to prove my point. (There’s a future Diner idea.)

She was born Ella Geisman, but died June Allyson. I remember her as the spokeswoman for Depends – a fate that will someday befall Sharon Stone, probably. You know, when I was in ‘Basic Instinct, I raised eyebrows when I didn’t wear any panties. But that was then, and now I like the security and peace of mind of the new Depends Thong active, glamorous seniors.” From Wikipedia, this glimpse  of hell:

She occasionally made appearances on talk and variety shows, but gained newfound celebrity in the 1990s as spokeswoman for Depend adult undergarments. Her name made the headlines again when actor-turned-agent Marty Ingels publicly charged Allyson with not paying his large commission on the Depend deal. Allyson counter-charged that Ingels was harassing her with dozens of phone calls daily and nightly.

Oh Lord. Marty – a brillo-headed comic I remember from my childhood for having large immobile dyed caterpillars for eyebrows – was also famous for suing a talk-radio host for age discrimination; I think a screener told him he was a member of a demographic they weren’t particularly interested in courting. A few years ago I heard him call another talk show under an assumed name, but there’s no disguising that Ingels Magic.

Death in India. It’ll be interesting to see how much this atrocity registers in the West. Not much, I fear, and I doubt it’ll be added to the string of 21st century attacks  - New York, Madrid, London. It’ll be seen as mad people doing daft things in a strange crowded place in a part of the world where the trains always have nine thousand people hanging off the sides, and they’re like all totally about cows being holy. The idea that this was an assault on a highly developed democratic civilization - which had the effrontery to prosper without the guidance of Sharia – will probably be lost in a blur of oddly-named factions and Kashmiri hairsplitting. When someone blows up the Tokyo or Moscow subway, there’ll be a thumbsucker on the front page: Coordinated bombings of Mass Transit systems: Is There A Pattern?  The article will probably reassure everyone that while the bombings appear similar, the motives differed. And should the next attack fall here, it’ll probably be blamed on Iraq, since the intelligentsia seems to have concluded that the Iraq Theater has as much to do with fighting Islamic terror as invading Peru to root out Branch Davidians.

On a related note, as long as I’m feeling screedy: It’s the hapless and jape-free Joel Stein, writing about finding a flag planted on his lawn. (Via Villianous.) It’s called  “Eek! A flag on my lawn,” which suggests that the entire column was dictated from a chair on which Mr. Stein stood, shifting from leg to leg in panic. Anyway, he dithered about how to dispose of the flag, until

my wife, Cassandra, got sick of this conversation. So she plucked the flag out of our planter and threw it away, not even in the recycle bin. This is a woman who hates both political parties.

I’d say she hates a bit more than that. We continue:

It threw me into a moral tizzy. Why didn't I want a flag in front of my house? Why didn't I ever have one before?

Substantial moral issues rarely manifest themselves in a tizzy, but we are in Eek! Territory. In any case, he probably didn’t want a flag in front of his house because he regarded them as the rightful property of gray-haired buzz-cut men named Ed with watermelon bellies and white T-shirts who gave Joel a friendly nod, but always made him feel as though they knew he couldn’t tie a decent knot, and only shined his shoes for funerals.

Would it be wrong to, late that night, assume that my next-door neighbor would enjoy two flags outside his house?

If a blunter axe ever split an infinitive, I’ve never seen it. We learn next the mysterious origin of the contagion; it’s from a realtor with a name that’s feelin’ fresh:

Massengale told me that in the town she grew up in near St. Louis, most people kept a flag up all year. Even though I've seen tons of neighborhoods that do this, I've never actually lived in one. I've also never lived in a neighborhood that had those flags reminding you of the holidays and seasons.

Those flags.

Note: they don’t remind us of the holidays, they exemplify the holiday. And as far as I know, no one puts out a flag on behalf of a season. Not even wabbit season.

In fact, I've always looked down on those places.

That’s the key line, right there. Not because he admits to looking down on people who put up a flag on the Fourth; that’s hardly unusual in the thin moist demographic stratum he occupies. It’s not that they don’t like the flag, necessarily, and it’s not that they don’t enjoy the Fourth, but put the two together and people might get the wrong idea. No, what amused me was the sight of a writer who’d burrowed so far up the aperture of his warm narcissistic cocoon he has no idea how he comes across. I have liberal friends who fly flags without apology or worry, because they’re Americans, because it’s the Fourth, because they love their country, and because they don’t believe that trinity is the property of the other side. Which it isn’t. When it comes to struggling to get the flag on the pole just right, we’re all in this together. But to Mr. Stein, these are people to be looked down upon. Places deserving of a sniff and a snort. Cringe, O Banner-deck’d exurb jingo-huts, at the withering Looking Down Upon, exacted with bone-dry scorn by a professional thinkerator.

Who continues:

If you need semaphore to inform each other that it's going to get hotter in the upcoming months, nobody is putting a magnet school in your community.

I can imagine the patented Hugh Hewitt death-by-literal-interpretation radio interrogation:

HH: My guest is Joel Stein! Joel. you said people put up flags to tell each other that the weather’s getting warmer. Do you really believe that? 

JS: Well, no, it was,  a joke, maybe not the greatest, although -

HH: But that’s what you wrote. Tell me, why do they put them up on Labor Day? To tell neighbors it will soon get cooler?

JS: Again, no, it was a joke. I suppose they put them up to celebrate socialists getting them a new three-day weekend, or something.

HH: But you think people who put up flags are stupid, because they won’t get magnet schools. Do you think magnet schools should only go in neighborhoods were no one puts up a flag?

JS: Again, Hugh, you’re reading too much into it –

HH: I’m just reading what you wrote. How many houses have to put up flags before you assume the neighborhood is too stupid for a magnet school?

And so forth. He concludes:

So the reason I didn't want to put a flag outside wasn't because I disapprove of our international policies. It was because I didn't want to associate myself with the other people who put them up, and with their unquestioning, tribal, us-versus-them, arrogant mentality. Though I love being American, I don't want to proclaim it as the sole basis of my identity.

I suspect, perhaps unfairly, that “I love being American” is as deep and profound a statement as “I love the warm feeling of freedom I get when I pee in the pool.” Not that he would want public urination in a communal locale to be the sole basis of his identity, of course, but that’s how I see him now: one guy bobbing in the water, alone among many, a private smile on his face, thinking: like I’m the only one.

Hanging a flag is a sign of an unquestioning, tribal, us-versus-them, arrogant mentality, eh? FDR would have stood up from his wheelchair just to walk across the room and slap you silly.

New Quirk, of course. Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you tomorrow.