Okay, it could be his son, back from the war

One of the finest things the modern world has is, of course, the past. Or rather the effortless access to its products. I was heading off to pick up Gnat from Girl Scouts, zipping along the parkway; the honeyed light poured through the trees, warm air flowed in the window, and the radio drank from a pure stream of Mozart poured down the satellite above. (The Jupiter symphony.) Driving fast on a curvy road, leaves scuttling across your path, Mozart in the car as the stars start to come out – a perfect fall moment, and I didn’t once think it would make a great car commercial. (Until now.)

Wife’s out with friends at one of those jewelry parties. I’m trying to think of a male equivalent. A peripheral party? Get your friends over and show them 40 USB accessories? So it’s me and Gnat, but since we’re both weary we’re doing nothing but watching TV. I felt punky most of the day, and was certain I was coming down with Something; everyone has scratchy throats and bouts of sneezing, and I figured it was my turn at the wheel. But I was fine by three. Headed off to parent-teacher conference. Sat in the tiny chair, knees around my ears, and heard the good news. She’s just where she should be in some areas, way ahead in language skills. Equally important, if not more so, is that she has an excellent disposition, makes friends easily, and is self-directed.

Life is easier when happiness doesn’t come hard.

We had a laugh about her choice of professions on her biography sheet: “Rock Star.” I’d given her some needling about that, and she’d explained: well I just like to dance and I like the clothes but I won’t be on the Dark Side.” On the other hand, she picked out Beethoven’s Sixth today on the radio: “That sounds like Beethoven.” It’s not her generic name for classical music, either.

Hah: The iTunes just kicked up a tune from the recent Knopfler soundtrack, with plenty of bagpipes.

“That’s SCOTTISH,” she said.

I went home, took the daily nap – I’d gotten away from those, but now that I’m getting up much earlier the 4:30 restorative is a requirement. Nice to know I still have the skill for instant sleep and instant alertness upon waking. I got Gnat off to Girl Scouts, then did the Hewitt show; we had a genial disagreement. Et cetera. I’m just typing now, aren’t I. Tired.

An ad for “Flushed Away” just came on the tube. “From the makers of Shrek,” it said. Jeez. It gets worse – the poster says “From the Creators of Shrek and Madagascar.” I rewound (is there a better term for going back on a TiVo? Revisited? Reversed?) and froze on a character; I asked Gnat if it reminded her of anything.

“Wallace and Grommit?” she said. Exactly. It’s an Aardman conception. I don’t care who’s producing or providing the hardware of even helping out with the animation; Aardman ought to get top billing. But no, Shrek is the marquee name, I guess, and we’re not expected to remember anything beyond the green ogre and the movie that had those talking animals in a comedic setting. You know, that one.

The BBC story on the movie has an amusing line – “Other actors who give their voices to the characters are ‘King Kong’ star Andy Serkis . . .” He played Kong, of course, via motion capture. (Mr. Serkis has a website that needs work. Warning: sound, although that’s the least of its problems; it looks like a high-school theater major site.)

Screedy links follow, so if you're disinterested in that, I leave you with this. Fall at Jasperwood:

Since you've asked, here's the Gazebo. With bonus Shed Revealing Action!


New Diner, available by clicking the link at the bottom of the page. The MP3 version, which lacks the cool art and destroys my chance of getting on iTunes's main page - as if you care! Why don't you just STAB ME IN THE HEART! - is here. Hit the Quirk as well for concentrated irrelevance. Calendar menu returns Monday.

Now, links & generalized bitchery.

If Darth Maul’s brother went into public relations.

Via Tim Blair, a rather interesting statistic: Two thousand five hundred French policemen have been injured in clashes with those vague, indistinct French “youth” who rise up like wraiths of steam from the grates, throw rocks, then evaporate, leaving reporters unable to describe them.

I’m a sucker for protest roundups.

Can’t remember the website, but I was reading the comments – usual mix of snark, pith, piss, and flaming-sack-of-dog-poo lunacy – and one of the commenters went off on terms that instantly told him he was dealing with a nutwad, and one of them was “Islamist.” Well, it’s hardly an inflammatory term coined by Fillintheblankophobes to describe the Scary Yet Truly Nonthreatening Dusky Other. It’s been around for a while. What I frequently detect in such comments is not an admiration or appreciation of Islam itself; the defense comes from a peculiar reflex to defend something in another culture which the wrong people are attacking. According to this theory – and I’m paraphrasing – the neo-theos are using “terrorism” as a cover story for fighting the hated Dusky Others and provide a rationale for the imperial oil war. (Add in some Zionist influence, if so inclined.) It’s not a particularly nuanced vision. If David Duke doesn’t like Muslims, the logic goes, then people who link approvingly to Oriana Fallaci’s critique of the Western response to Islamism are more likely to be like David Duke than Fallaci. It’s not about ideas for most people, you see – it’s something else, devious and ancient and selfish, and that man ranting about the Jews and infidels and the homersexuals is irrelevant. Confused? Relax: here come our old hardy twin brothers Class and Race to explain it. They can explain everything. Even middle-class Arab men blowing up middle-class Arab women and children? Especially that.

But that’s not something we should worry about. We should worry about Islamophobia.

It’s is a ridiculous term; it’s like saying that people who criticized the Catholic Church’s handling of the pedophile priest scandal were Christophobic, or people who criticized the last three Star Wars movies were Sithophobic. But there’s something slightly insidious about it, as well: it applies a medical taxonomy to an opinion. A phobia, after all, is an irrational fear. Spiders, clowns, plaids, pickles, Islam. We can fix those things. Treatment is available, and it’s usually in the form of meetings or seminars or outreach missions or the usual hand-holding blandishments designed to get everyone through today. And after that? Let the future take care of itself, mate.

Most people over here want to get along, more or less. A significant percentage are fargin’ iceholes who oversalt the broth for the rest of us; it would be a mistake to assume they speak for all, just as it would be a mistake to assume they have no sway among those previously disinclined to exploring the outer perimeters of their belief system. But most people want to get along. More or less. And so co-religionists put up with the nonsense, and the people entrusted with managing the retreat of the dominant culture accommodate the most absurd demands. Like this: a British police officer was excused from guarding the Israeli embassy. He was a Muslim, and objected on moral grounds. Those are words that paralyze officialdom.

The path of least resistance buys you a day’s peace, but only a day. As one canny commenter on the newspaper’s website noted:

Should Scotland Yard make a point of excluding Muslims from specific duties based on their religion, there will be a predictable uproar claiming that they're not being trusted.

It comes down to this: Islam is being defined in the popular mind by three forces: the radicals who kill, the PR-savvy activists who protest, and the officials who cave. The aggregate effect does not produce good will. Every time something gets cancelled out of fear of the Few, it works to alienate the Many, be they people annoyed by the cancellation, or those annoyed by the initial provocation. (Of course their alienation results from different worldviews, and in that sense aren't comparable at all.) The individual examples make headlines, but it's the cumulative effect that counts. If push comes to shove, and the radicals in Britain demand sovereignity over their coreligionists, on what basis will the Government protest? Will the assimilated British Muslims object or submit - and if it's the latter, will they submit from fear or long-sublimated agreement?

Just asking. I don't know.

Here in Minneapolis there’s a controversy about Muslim cab drivers who refuse fares who are carrying alcohol. The airport, as I understand the story, is studying whether to implement special lights on the cabs that alert passengers to hooch-friendly or hooch-hostile cabs. It reminded me – as so many things do, for odd reasons – of the Klemperer diaries. Every decree that identified and isolated the Jew infuriated and depressed him, because he saw himself as German first. He fought for his identity as a German even as the government insisted on reducing him down to the crude tropes of Blood and Tribe. He belonged to something larger.

Of course, so do the complaining cabbies. It’s just a different Something Larger. Indicative of a Greater Whole? I don’t know. I’ve taken a lot of cabs in the East Coast. Hindus, Jews, Muslims. No one ever complained if I had a Big Mac in my hand, or asked if it had bacon, and the Muslim cabbies who picked me up outside of various bars surely knew I was carrying alcohol, if only in bloodstream form. Truth be told, my introduction to actual real-life Muslims came in the form of many cabbie colloquies. I’m sure the hard-core guys just kept their mouths clamped, but I remember a few inter-faith dialogues, and they all boiled down to the same things – respect, tolerance, everyone likes Jesus, peace, have a nice night, smiles all around.

It’s not as difficult as it seems. Or so it seems, sometimes.

Ever watched a fight on TV? Before the bout everyone’s milling around in the ring; there’s hard looks and grins and hangers-on and photographers, and a general air of excitement and anticipation, but everyone’s enjoying the moment. Then the bell clangs. Everyone heads to their corners. They know exactly which corner is theirs.

We may think that bell’s already rung, but it hasn’t. Believe me, you'll know it when it does.

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c. 2006 j. lileks. Email, if you wish, may be sent to "first name at last name dot com."