“There’s a big giant dead bird on the lawn,” my wife just said. I replied that I’d seen it.
“You were just going to leave it there?”
“I figured nature would take care of it,” I said.
“What, the wolves are going to come for it?”
“No. Nature. You know, bugs. Buzzards. Nature. It knows how to handle things like that. Otherwise we’d be up to our armpits in heaps of non-decaying dead birds.”
But nothing had happened after four days. Lazy nature. Can’t even decompose a bird. I mean, it didn’t even look like it had started.
One of those lazy days suffused with a gnawing ennui, partly because I’ve been writing all day and I keep coming up with things like “suffused with a gnawing ennui.” I’m bored. I’m bored with everything that interests me, at the moment. Part of the problem, I’m sure, comes from a project I’m working on, which is essentially a complete overhaul of something I already did, but now can’t stand to look at. Friday night I sat down to design this week’s site, and found myself looking through magazines I’d looked through a hundred dozen times before. Later that night I settled down for some television, and watched a show I’d seen before. (More on that later.) Even a hamster in his wheel eventually realizes the scenery hasn’t changed much. There are times when your interests are a source of never-ending fascination, and a time when they feel like manacles. In times such as the latter, you find yourself saving a document in Photoshop, then closing the document, only to have Photoshop ask you if you want to save it; you realize you go through this about 40 times a day, and have done so daily for the last 15 years, and you’re pretty sick of it. Tomorrow's Bleat may be perkier and 12% better written than this one. We'll see.
Fine weekend. Saturday I wandered around downtown taking pictures for the upcoming Mpls 07 site. There was a crowd of people around the library, led by a tour guide whose cheer and pride was so evident you could bottle it and sell it as a mild intoxicant. One member of the party said she had “a question about the fenestration.” That would be the windows, but that’s such a common term. She probably refers to her computer operating system as “Fenestration” as well. The guide, no doubt used to fielding queries about the unusual etchings in the windows, beamed and said, with perky cheer, “You mean the aesthetic choices?”
“No, I’m concerned about energy conservation,” she said. Ack. Puritans. I moved along before I could hear more, and went inside. I have mixed feelings about the library; sometimes I don't like it, and sometimes I really don't. The big strange roof is ungainly and ill-proportioned; the interior atrium, meant to cause oohs and the occasional ah, gives me no uplift, and it actually brings to mind any number of horrible claustrophobic dreams: it narrows at one end, giving you the impression of being caught in a glacial fissure:
There’s a fair amount of wood, but altogether too much exposed concrete, complete with empty holes in which the grim slurry was pumped. No other building material demonstrates contempt for people more than exposed concrete. The walls of the children’s library room have exposed concrete: how festive! Take a survey, ask most parents which substance they’d prefer to see in abundance in a children’s library, and “that stuff you find in 1960s parking garages” is usually not the first response.
The most poignant sign of the times, however, is found outside. There is sculpture. And here is the sculpture.
I believe it’s called “Mating Rituals of the Martian Doorjamb,” or something like that. It’s illuminated at night by recessed spots. I imagine they’re very proud of it. Inside the atrium there’s another statue, rescued from a previous version of the Central library. Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom:
This object was exhibed at the 1893 World's Fair; touch it, and you touch something that stood in the great plaster halls of the White City. More about its creator can be found here.
Let us sum up progress, then:
Afterwards I drove to a grocery store I never visit, looking for cheap replacements for the items lost in the great freezer malfunction. They had a two-for-one sale on fishsticks, which meant $7.49 off. That’s quite a savings. But it didn’t make up for the sad produce, most of which was dull and had encountered more hands than a serving girl at a Stanford White dinner party.
It warmed up this weekend, and that meant the annual inauguration of the Clear Liquid Season. We had the monthly meeting of the Valli Basement Boys at the St. Paul Grill, a restaurant in a very old and very grand hotel. It had the acoustics of a large tiled train shed, which meant that every time someone put a fork on their plate it sounded like a waiter had dashed 47 china dishes on the floor. The only way you could make yourself heard was to shout, which raised the volume, which made other people shout – and so a room which might have had a hundred people conversing in soft voices took on the character of a stock exchange floor. One of the members of our party was gripped by an oration so enthusiastic he trumped the room’s noise level, and did so with a uniquely nasal tonality that cut through everything like a hot bright sword. The room tone instantly dropped. We fell silent as well, by instinct, not wanting to be blamed, and didn’t start to let out the laughter until the volume swelled again. A grand night, as usual, and as usual it ended with a knotty political discussion about The War. No one’s pleased. A frank and open exchange of views followed, as they always say about diplomatic conferences that end with someone throwing a tray of canapes against the wall. We were all on the same page, and more or less on the same paragraph, but people can get into knife-fights over punctuation. Lots of nuance and dissent, in other words.
It reminded me of something I’d read in my favorite source of inadvertent insight, Garrison Keillor’s “Old Scout” column. He wrote:
It's good for an old liberal like me to read history and recognize that Eisenhower was no dolt and Adlai Stevenson was no giant. And to read about Joe McCarthy and realize that, opportunist and blowhard that he was, he was hardly the embodiment of evil that we liberals cherished as an enemy. We made the people he attacked into heroes but McCarthyism was very small potatoes. Alger Hiss was not the victim of a witch hunt; he was a witch. The big story was taking place in Russia and Eastern Europe, in China, and in Cuba, places where evil ruled with an open hand, but a great many Democrats refused to see it. This refusal was a reaction against anti-communists such as Richard Nixon — if he said the sun rose in the east, then we would look off to the west and maybe build mirrors there so as to be able to argue the point — and this gave the Democratic party a reputation for appeasement that has crippled us ever since.
It's an interesting admission. You might almost expect him to add that his ceaseless ad hominem depictions of the other side (As he puts it in his latest book: "hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, see-through fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, hobby cops, misanthropic frat boys, lizardskin cigar monkeys, jerktown romeos, ninja dittoheads, the shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, cheese merchants, cat stranglers, taxi dancers, grab-ass executives, gun fetishists, genteel pornographers, pill pushers, chronic nappers, nihilists in golf pants, backed-up Baptists, Crips and Bloods of the boardroom.") might have blinded him to the fact that we do have enemies, and he might want to spill as much ink worrying about the utterly illiberal forces we're fighting as he spends sneering at the Current Occupant. Alas:
And now something similar is happening to Republicans. They are following the Current Occupant down a road that will be disastrous to them for years to come. They are defending the indefensible.
See, he was wrong before, but he's absolutely right about this now.
One can make the argument that the current Iraq strategy won’t work, but for Mr. Keillor to say it is indefensible suggests that he has a keener insights into the realities of the situation than Gen. Patraeus. It’s possible; in his article, he cites an article from the New Yorker, so he’s obviously staying abreast of current affairs. He also fears that the United States will confront Iran, which is another indefensible position. Only blind allegiance to the ol’ Current Occupant would drive a person to such madness. Leave Iran alone; leave the field in Iraq: those are the only defensible positions. Anything outside those actions is proof one has entered the Iron Bubble, and automatically gainsays the statements of the other side simply because the other side made them.
It’s interesting: in his review of his own side’s history, he shows how domestic political considerations drove out the ability to recognize greater evils abroad. I ask, as gently as I can: Might the same instinct be abroad in the land today?
Side note: I can well understand Keillor's fury at people who misuse religion for political gain; in the 2002 Minnesota Senate election, an essayist attacked the policies and campaign style of a detested candidate with these words:
To gain the whole world and lose your own soul is not a course that Scripture recommends. You can do it so long as God doesn't notice, but God has a way of returning and straightening these things out. Sinner beware.
He also aired his thoughts on which Senate candidate really had a better marriage. What a cat-strangler. What a napper. What a taxi dancer!
Weekend entertainment: I got the second season of Twin Peaks, which is a reminder why the show was cancelled. All of the flaws are on parade, thumping drums and waving banners. The first season worked because it was a new idea with a powerful central mystery; the second season refused to answer the mystery for the first six episodes, piled up subplots that had little interest - who cared about the Ghostwood development? Who cared about Josie Packard’s Mysterious Employer? - or had an exasperating Quirky Quality (Nadine thinks she’s in high school! Catherine comes back as a cross-dressing Japanese burn victim! Andy has a low sperm count!) that seem strained and tiresome. The only addition that worked was David Lynch’s character, the deaf, shouting FBI agent. The agoraphobic orchid-tender who had a copy of Laura’s secret secret extra-secret diary? Ooh, what’s in that? Laura had dark thoughts! You don’t say.
When it gets back to the mystery, and the spooky music plays, it works. But that’s ten minutes, if that, per episode. They could have wrapped it up in two episodes. If memory serves, the episode in which the mystery was solved was pretty powerful, as these things go, and I’ll watch it. But I never thought I’d be this disappointed to see it again.
Something else occurred to me while watching the show: the small number of locations. Twin Peaks didn’t have a downtown, apparently. Just neighborhoods, a school (which we never went back to again) a hospital, a giant hotel, and a whorehouse across the boarder. Also a deep-space listening station.
That said, Agent Cooper is still Coop, and Harry S. Truman is still Harry, and Hawk is still Hawk. And Bob is still Bob. Everybody run.
Well, that concludes today's dull, predictable, mopey-arsed entry. Sorry: at least there's a merry silly Quirk and a matchbook. See you tomorrow.