It snowed a little last night:


It looks as if Winter is actually sitting in the chair, holding court.

The storm was advertised a few days in advance, with all sorts of dire  warnings. Water in crystal form will fall from the sky! We know not what this portends, but surely it bodes ill! Slaughter the goats and pray to whatever god or gods you habitually supplicate! I cannot blame TV, since we  had  TV weathermen decades before this flutter-hand panic manifested itself. I blame whatever change came over the people who manage the dispersal of information, and their desire to . . . crisisify everything, to beclown myself with a neologism. My colleague at the paper, Nick Coleman, had a sensible column Sunday about the stolid old Weatherball, a giant orb that stood atop a bank and send simple color-coded messages to the citizens. As one of my matchbooks explained it:

That was all ye knew, and all ye needed to know. Incidentally, there was a plutocrat steak-distrbution node on the top floor of the bank:

Odd, since it was the one place in the city from which you absolutely could not see the Weatherball.  

I ran errands in the afternoon during the first phase of Nature’s Brutal Attack; the roads were slick, visibility was obscured by sleet, and the usual percentage of idiots drove as though they were drag-racing in the Valley of Nerf. Nothing can hurt me! I’m surrounded by plastic! Everyone ran to the grocery store for the usual requisites, because we might be snowed in for weeks, if not months. I saw this behavior in Washington DC, when the threat of a half-inch of snow would empty the shelves of bread and Charmin. And milk. I presume you mash them all up into a stiff, nutritious paste that will keep you alive until the rescue teams find your body.

Me, I went to the liquor store for a bottle of wine. As usual there was a fellow demonstrating this week’s specials. I tasted two. Horrible. One spread out all over the back of your palate in an ominous fashion that recalled the WW2 cartoons showing Nazi advances over Europe; the other was a chianti that tasted like glue. With some clerks I’ll discuss the wine, because I know it just makes their day when they have to nod and smile and agree with the assessment of some guy whose palate is slightly more diserning than the pads on a dog’s foot, but with this clerk I said nothing. Because he never says anything. You say “that’s good,” he nods and wears a half-smile: whatever. You say “that’s been strained through an inch-thick woven mat of underarm hair,” and he nods wears a half-smile. So this time I said “I don’t like either of them,” which earned me a nod and a half-smile. I thanked him and moved on.

And bought what I always buy. Sometimes I get the specials. Once I bought a very confusing red – a blend of three varieties, it was suspicious and aggressive, and you felt like you’d have to drink three bottles before it trusted you.

Then to the grocery store (milk, bread, Scott’s Tissues) and home. Home to return to the machinery, where I have been working all week on the book. Still not done. The art’s due Wednesday, and I’ll make that deadline, but the copy will follow a week later. So. Another week staring hot hate-holes into the monitor. It’s always like this: can’t finish a book without loathing every word of it, convinced my hackdom has finally been exposed for all to see.

Of course, it’s entered my dreams. I came up with a joke in my sleep the other night, and thought it was hilarious. As one often does. When I woke, however, I decided it wasn’t that bad. It was, however, unprintable in a civil context. And I wouldn’t want you to have bad words in your cache, so if you want the bad-language joke – which hinges on an old advertising cliché, for heaven’s sake; why do I dream of such things? – you’ll have to click for it. Probably not as amusing as I think.

Then I had a dream that also pleased me upon recollection. I was having lunch in a café with a friend, and Bill Gates was at the next table. We decided to drive him nuts by discussing various irritating features in Vista, but to really drive him nuts we only mentioned ones that could be fixed with minor tweaks to various preferences. He would stew and seethe – idiots! That can be turned off! – and eventually he’d come over and tell us how those problems could be easily avoided. He never did, though. I imagine he’s used to it.

Didn’t get to watch much TV this weekend, due to the work. I watched last week’s Rome, which was extraordinary. My favorite show of the year, and a fine reason to pay for HBO: I can’t imagine breaking the mood to sell us a car or beer or boner pills. While I’d like another season, I wouldn’t want seven. It would wear itself out, just as seven years of “I, Claudius” would have been too much. Oh, look, people are underestimating him because of his stammer again! I love this part.

The first season is available on DVD, and I recommend it. Three thumbs up, to use the semi-annual Motie reference. Nowadays we’re used to extraordinary CGI recreations, but the sets on Rome are real and immense; teeming filth has never looked so lush and alive. At least in this season they used computer graphics for the battle sequences; in the first season, the clash of massive armies was represented by two dozen guys doing the stabby-dance in a space no larger than an average back yard.

I started to watch “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Expanded Budget,” and got through 25 minutes before indifference curdled into outright irritation. I’ll probably finish it, but it’ll take six or seven tries. It’s everything I don’t like in a modern movie, noisy and empty, pedal-to-the-floor every second on a rollercoaster ride! It’s one of those things you have to watch, though; it made a billion dollars, and I’m curious to see why.

Well, I know why: because everyone loved Johnny Depp’s character in the first one, and the original was a clever piece of summertime entertainment. In this one, however, character seems to have been replaced with mannerism: the unsteady gait, the wide eyes ringed with mascara and suspicion, the ooh! mouth-moue, the thick-tongued delivery. I’d rather watch the first again. I had the  same feeling I had the first time I watched “The Empire Strikes Back,” during that wretched scene in the Hoth infirmary with Han, Luke, Leia and the other assorted trademarked characters. This doesn’t work at all, I thought. This is horribly written and horribly acted and poorly paced and labored and unfunny. Please get back to blowing things up. Which they did. The first transport is away! The first transport is away! Hoorah! We’ve discovered that launching gigantic spaceships into the teeth of the imperial armada works if we fire blasters into the sky as the ship takes off! Totally freaks them out!

Back to work; not only book work but column work. New Matchbook. Also this: apparently there's some drawing contest on TV related to "Catscratch," and Gnat drew this:

I told Gnat I would send it to the man who created the character, Doug TenNapel. "Cool!" she said. "Do you know him?" I said I didn't in the usual sense, but I think we'd exchanged emails, and he was on a radio show that I was also on, and -

"Could you send it to" she asked. "Because sometimes they would put fan art on TV." I told her I didn't know anyone at Her disappointment in her father was great, but she pretended it was fine.