Amazon Honor System



Hola, amigos. Been a while since we’ve had a current installment, what with the hiatus / vacation and the recap of the long slow ride up the misty ancient Inner Passage.  You haven’t missed much, and I’ll prove it now.

Of course, there was the Bridge Disaster, but – according to the new rules of my odd life – that’s been shunted over to the other blog. (Which is updated weekends, incidentally.) The redesign looks like it’ll happen this fall, and I cannot wait, simply because A) I’m impatient, and B) I can’t stand to let any site go unruined unimproved with constant reworking for more than a couple of weeks. I already hate this design, and it’s just two days old.

I spent Friday just as I like to spend it – working on stuff that isn’t due tomorrow, sorting and backing up, rejiggering the system to welcome a bouncing new peripheral into the family. Got a new crappy printer to replace the old crappy printer. The old PIXMA suffered some form of monochromitis; even with new cartridges it would only print in washed-out magenta, no matter how many times I cleaned the print heads. (Or “Executed Deep Cleaning,” which sounded like some sort of black-ops military mission.) Plus, it was starting to eat paper, obsessively. It was also noisy – every time it tried to load a sheet of paper it whined and made a deafening clatter like someone giving a Transformer a prostate exam with a 20-car freight train. And it was ugly, too: as I said before, it resembled a Kleenex box from “Logan’s Run.” I hate printers. All of them.

Even the new one. It’s an HP. It’s also a scanner and a copier and MP3 player and dog waxer and has slots for 48 different media, plus a color screen and sixteen useless buttons I will never press. One of them automatically fixes your pictures. Gosh! Let the printer recalibrate my snapshot’s colors for me? Why, who could sa no? Total cost, after rebate: free. Which means that if I throw it out after the ink goes dry, it will have cost me nothing. And I’m already tempted. I tried to scan something, only to have the scanning software throw up a peculiar alert:  the program declared itself “unstable” and shut down. Wonderful. Try again: the program declared itself “unstable.” And shut down. I was tempted to try again, but who knew what would happen? Maybe the printer would go all coy and sexy only to scratch my eyes out in the heat of passion. It was unstable. It had warned me.

Well, having rebooted, let’s see if it’ll scan.


Ah! Good enough. (I got this today while looking for new Lance Lawsons for the Thursday Mystery Playhouse, where I dole out the strip one panel at a time, one per hour. Build that repeat traffic!) It’s an interesting attribute for food: mealy. I hope that means meal-like, but if it was an ad-man’s coinage it didn’t quite catch on.

I’m also unsure about the wisdom of Squatting Twins With Different Pork States, too.

Last week was ordinary enough – Gnat had an art class in a part of town I hadn’t visited in a long time, so naturally I had the devil’s own time finding it. Well, no, the Devil would have been able to find it quite nicely. You never see Mephistopheles standing on a  street corner puzzling over a map. Guy can poof in and out of anywhere. It’s those who the Devil is, well, bedeviling who’d have a hard time. And that doesn’t really seem like the sort of thing you’d blame on eternal forces of evil. No, you blame it on Google, and then the nice young lady who answered the phone at the school. Google maps put the address in the wrong place, if you can possibly believe that. True. Once I discovered the error I called the place and asked for directions. I told her right where I was, staring at the map on my iPhone. I am facing north on 37th at the intersection of the eastbound parkway.

“Turn left,” she said, which should have been my first mistake. People who talk in terms of east and north sometimes have trouble with people who see the world in terms of right and left. I turned left. Twenty blocks later I turned around and headed the other way, and found the place. It shared offices with my old union, to my surprise. (Not the Newspaper Guild, but the Communication Workers of America. I think they were my old union. They sent me newsletters all the time.)  The kids made art projects in a basement with ON STRIKE placards dumped against the wall.

I peeked into the office. It looked frozen in 1969, right down to the picture of Hubert Humphrey on the wall. 

That was Monday through Friday. It made a dent in the day, since the place was 22 minutes from anywhere I needed to be, and the class lasted but three hours. It’s like this every summer: day one of the schlep is confusing, day two seems fresh, by day three it’s routine, and come Friday you’ve been at this forever. On Tuesday, however, something peculiar happened. I got behind a slow car on Portland. Silvery-blue late model blandomobile driven by a woman in big glasses. She smoked one of those very, very thin  long cigarettes. I think the brand is called “More.” They’re awful. Anyway, she insisted on driving the speed limit, so it was a long, long drive along the creek.

The next day, same intersection: I was behind the same woman. Same car, same glasses, same thin cigarette in her right hand. The chances of this seem ridiculous. She probably looked at the green vehicle in her rear view mirror, driven by a fellow with spikey Spidey-lines shooting off his head, and thought: nah. Can’t be.

Otherwise: hot. Busy. Dry. News drought at the beginning of the week, except for the story about the fellow arrested for a hate crime for desecrating the Koran. I swear: in a few years it’s going to be a sign of commitment to free expression to burn a book.

Early in the week I sat outside and read the gigantic Disney bio I brought on the trip – as I expected, you don’t get a sense of the inner private man, because perhaps there wasn’t one. If such a thing is possible. You get the sense of a very smart, driven, creative fellow who was deeply and sincerely superficial. Superficial right down to his bones. Can a shallow man have deep ambitions? Sure. Not necessarily a bad thing – the cartoons would be different had Disney had vast roiling depths – but as the book goes on you feel the subject recede until he becomes Beloved Uncle Walt of the Sunday TV shows, the first animatronic human.

And didn’t you want him to be your uncle, or Grandpa? He was one of the authority figures of childhood, along with Captain Kangaroo and Marlin Perkins.

Media notes: Watched an interesting little BBC comedy that got little publicity over here – it’s in the Alan Partridge Show. Clueless arrogant no-talent washed-up chat show hack plots comeback while marooned as an early AM radio host in a rural market. Oh, that British humour! No, seriously, this is good.

Partridge was the creation of comic Steve Coogan, much like David Brent was the invention of Ricky Gervais – the character isn’t as sharp or focused, but he has the same deluded egotism. Says Amazon:

"A bleakly hilarious take on Modern Middle English Man, irascible and profoundly bored. Between innumerable moments of high, wild comedy, such as a disastrous video Partridge does for a boating agency and an encounter with his one (insane) fan, the most telling moments of the series come with his efforts to fill his dismally empty days, taking a trouser press to pieces, staring at the Astroturf at an owl sanctuary or walking to a service station to buy windscreen cleaning fluid just for something to do. All this proved a little too darkly uncomfortable for mainstream audiences--yet Alan Partridge was probably the finest British comic creation of the 1990s."

Agreed. I’d netflix this one, though, since the discs are rather expensive.

Saw some movies, too. “Zodiac,” about the infamous super-creepy serial killer of the late 60s and early 70s. The movie could have been shorter. Also better. But it’s pretty good, and the art direction brings back the early 70s in all its dirty dinged-up horrors. The newspaper office is particularly interesting, at least to those of us who remember the very very old days. Rows and rows of black-topped battleship-grey desks under glaring fluorescent light. Typewriters. The desks look oddly decapitated – no computer monitors. You think: How did they make the news? Hell, how did they get it? 

Robert Downey Jr. is good enough; Jake Gyllenhaal looks like he cannot shake the humiliating memory of being pistol-whipped by Barney Fife. It’s the sort of movie where Laura Dern unexpectedly appears, and makes you think: she’s pretty good. But she doesn’t. On the other hand, the opening sequence – a long dolly down a perfect suburban California street at twilight on the Fourth of July, with “Easy to Be Cruel” playing on the radio  - it’s a thing of beauty, that sequence, and it haunts every frame that follows.

Watched “Lonely Hearts,” based on a the Lonely Hearts Killers case of the late 40s. Must have been in a serial-murderer mood, it seems. Well, I’d wanted to see both -  the first for David Fincher, the second for James Gandolfini in a 1940s role that required him to wear hats and little Oliver Hardy neckties. Warning: the movie was produced in a facility that made and/or handled Travolta, but he’s not bad; the less he acts, the better, and he doesn’t act here. He spends the entire movie wearing the expression of an old man sitting on the can. Gandolfini shows that his Soprano persona can be used for good, too – roles like this make you realize that he really seems like someone who stepped out of the 40s, sometimes.  Laura Dern’s pretty good, too.

The actual murderess on which the story was based was quite obese; they had trouble packing her into Old Sparky at the end. Naturally, she’s played by Selma Hayek. I enjoyed it more than "Zodiac," mostly because it’s triple-dipped in Forties sauce. When the credits roll you realize that the movie is devoted to the director’s grandfather . . . who was the cop played by Travolta. Which makes the opening credit sequence – no, I won’t spoil – rather troubling. That was the director’s Grandma. All in all, the better of the two.

There’s more, but I’ve work to do. New Matchbook – a  feature which will be going daily soon – and of course right now, and all day long. See you there!