Gnat’s school is having a Read-A-Thon, which is a marathon of reading. I don’t know why there’s an extra hyphen. No one runs a Mar-a-thon or has a Tel-a-Thon. What’s up with that?

Whoa, whoa, why am I wasting A-list material here when I could spend it on the day job?

Kidding. I wrote the first three sentences of that first paragraph while limbering up for today’s column, and after I read it I went to the sink and splashed my face with water to lave away the shame. Jeez. Then I wrote something else. That was today: woke up, checked the temp: Zero! Yes! Heat wave! Got Gnat off to the bus, went back to the house for the morning paper to see who’d been shot and who’d been charged and who died – the things local papers can cover better than anyone else – then hit the webs to soak in The World. Then the half-hour of daily zen: I got out a small pocket knife and pried the staples off 50 matchbooks, then ironed them flat. Because when I’m done with that project, I will scan them all and put them in plastic sleeves. Because I must. Then I filed a column at 10 AM. Then I filed a column at 11 AM. Lunch; started another column, killed it from shame, then wrote another. And so ended the first phase of the daily obligations.

Wednesday I have to read at Gnat’s school, as noted. She’s chosen sixteen books from which I can choose.  One of the books is from a series that details the consequences of giving a mouse a particular object. Say, a flamethrower. “If You Give a Mouse a Flamethrower, he’ll want to point it at the drapes. And if he points it at the drapes, he’ll probably want to use the extinguisher. If he uses the extinguisher, he’ll probably choose the one that’s rated for electrical fires.” And so on until things have gotten out of hand: “If you give a mouse a thermonuclear device, he’ll probably want to test it first. If he wants to test it first, he’ll probably want to exploit the event for maximum geopolitical impact.” The general lesson seems clear: don’t give a mouse anything. But it’s probably not a good idea to tell the kids they are filthy vermin and start handing out glue traps.

She also wants me to read a Spongebob book. There are nine thousand Spongebob books. I can do Squidward; I can do Mister Krab’s laugh; I can do Patrick. (Anyone can do Patrick. He’s the modern Donald Duck voice.) But I can’t do Spongebob; no one can. So I might avoid that book.

Good thing the Read-a-thon isn’t based on a word-count, because then we could just install some software, wait for the 197,000 word end-user license agreement, and click the ACCEPT button that signifies we’ve read the contract. No court in the land would say otherwise.

After I picked her up from the bus we did homework, which took forever; off to choir, then home to work on the book. And that’s why this is short: the book’s due March First, and that means there will be thin lame offerings for the duration of this thin lame month.

But! I did premier a new site last night, and forgot the link. It’s the start of a new weekly addition to the Institute of Official Cheer, and like the Matchbook site, I have enough material to go for years. It’s a site devoted to peculiar comic books, but you need not care about comics to enjoy it; consider it a commentary on the culture of the time. I should note that very few of the comics were assembled by your host; I’ve been hovering up the scans provided by the thankless anonymous posters to a usenet group. Their work deserves more eyeballs; they’ve resurrected a slice of American culture that fired the imagination of millions of kids, and twisted it in ways we can only imagine. As the first example might show.

Enjoy, and apologies for this and the rest of the month. New Quirk, of course. See you tomorrow.