Perfect weekend, except for that Osama tape. I had no idea Islam had such a low tax rate. Since I am motivated entirely by selfishness and miserly indifference to the public weal, I might well convert. Man makes a compelling point. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Ate, slept, shopped, reared back appalled. Here’s something I snapped at Target, part of the toy world’s ongoing attempts to make little girls feel like freaks:

Answers the question of what humans would have looked like if we’d evolved to eat leaves on tall trees, and lived on a planet devoid of wind. Or flatulence - one lusty gust from the hindquarters and she'd be face-first in the dirt. What is the matter with these people? I’m not one of those people who worries about Barbie’s baleful influence; had not a jot of ill-effect on Gnat. I’m on record about Bratz, the junior whore-dolls, or those L’il Bratz pocket doxies; those are bad. This isn’t naughty, it’s just needless, but that never stopped the toy industry. I used to cover the Toy Fair in New York, and I can imagine the groans this would have got from the women covering the event, and the tight smiles of the younger women chaperoning the reporters around.

Plus, I'm sure it's made in China, so the legs probably have arsenic marrow.


Proving the immutable nature of my own petty complaints: it happened again. As I knew it would. I had to go to Storables (pronounced in the Spanish mode, Sto-RAH-bee-lays) (Really, I’m sure of that) to get some boxes. Not any boxes: boxes that matched the other boxes in the Archive Closet. I had a burst of energy this weekend, and tackled some heaps; many items knew what it was like to be scanned on the bed of the new HP all-in-one, I can tell you that. But this meant they had to go somewhere. The material for the next book goes into cold storage, but there are so many scraps of ephemera, so many small ancient objects of peculiar beauty; the stuff that didn’t make the book will show up in a new site that premiers this week, an all-color high-res advertising archive. So I needed boxes. As I approached the counter of Storables, I remembered what had peeved me about the place before: the interminable questionnaire upon checkout. And it happened again. After everything had been scanned the clerk asked if I would like to be on their mailing list to receive news and coupons. I forgot the rules, and said I already was.

“Can I have your name please,” she said.


“Your name. I need your name.”

“Can’t I just pay,” I said, “and go?”

And that got me the Big Huff. I should have just said “no, thanks” and left it at that, but no, I had to Make A Statement. It’s not the clerk’s fault; she doesn’t set store policy. I just dislike feeling like some weird person because I don’t want to give them my shoe size and social security number to buy two fargin’ carboard boxes.

Off to Home Depot, where I scanned everything myself at the self-serv counter. Then the grocery store, where the bagged decided unilaterally I would like plastic, and put everything in those E-Z Shredd ™ bags they use. Then to Office Depot, where I returned a printer. Reason for exchange? It’s a Lexmark, and lived up to its reputation. Oh, alright, it doesn’t work. The wireless stopped working. Worked once, for one brief shining moment, then lost its desire to talk to anyone. Do you have the receipt? No, because this is all part of a plan to extract $100 from Office Depot by returning a product with your store sticker on the box, in an Office Depot bag. Sigh. Store credit is fine.

Yesterday I went to Best Buy to complain about the appliances. Got the same salesman I always get: good man. I explained that I’d had two new appliances from the same line fail in a course of three months, that I was without a dishwasher for at least a week, and I’d like a gift certificate for $150 to compensate for my troubles. He could do $75. Okay, then. I left feeling like a good consumer: I’d fought back! That night we went to a restaurant with relatives, and while the meal was good, they didn’t take the dishes away when we were done, never refilled the water, and didn’t refill my coffee cup. We shall tip exactly 14 percent!

I think I would have been in a better mood about the world if I hadn’t spent one and a half hours removing spam from

One and a half hours. And it’s really peculiar stuff, too: HOT TRANNY NUN VIOLATES CHINESE SMOKING T33NS. Every subject line is a finely crafted dagged thrown right at the heart of someone’s particular fetish. Or a machine-generated series of objects combined at random in the hopes someone really does want to see SHAVED SHEEP ON BRIDAL NIGHT FUN or some such lurid horror.

New site news: I’m doing some behind-the-scenes spififications. The video site has been upgraded, with all the Fair 07 movies added, and everything else recoded to the mp4 format; the Bleatophany page was likewise tweaked. I’ll tire of them in a year. A long-planned & gruesome overhaul of the Matchbook museum – 260 pages so far – is in progress. (I’m always amused when people use this site as an example of why I should not talk about, say, important weighty issues. “Go back to collecting matchbooks,” or something like that. Ouch! Right in the kisser, that one. I think the things are fascinating for all sorts of reasons – the graphics, or course, but the history as well. ) The Diner page has been redone, and the links – as far as I can tell so far – work. It’s up to date. (New Diner this week, incidentally.) The new version is less colorful than the old one, but I didn’t like the old one. Too literal. Also, the Bleat Archives are now up to date.

Slight screedishness:

Osama’s back! Or maybe not; this site says the tape freezes in a most peculiar way whenever current events are addressed. Like many, I found the speech a tiresome rote recitation of the usual droning points, and was amused by the Oliver-Stone vision of Western history. It's like listening to a college freshman who considered shoplifting the Howard Zinn book because he didn't want to use his Visa and get on any Enemies List. (In the end he asked Dad for a twenty, and paid cash.) The video would have been more impressive if Osama had shot it at an outdoor cafe in a thriving, beautiful city whose economic, military, and artistic prowess shames the world, but as usual he's probably coming to you from some hole where people have to crap in a bucket. It's like Darth Vader saying "Join me, Luke" from some Tatooine outhouse - after Luke had lopped off his hand.

I can understand how some people who find themselves cohabiting a portion of a Venn diagram with Osama would bristle at the notion that they are on his side, or like him in any way; if he said the sun rose in the East, that doesn’t mean that people who accept celestial mechanics are terrorists. Just because he said that Kennedy was killed by the military-industrial complex and the Iraq war is about oil doesn’t mean it’s not so.  Just because he cites Chomsky doesn’t mean Chomsky’s wrong. Just because he chides the Democrats for not pulling out of Iraq doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. Just because he hates Rumsfeld and blames him for everything from Vietnam to the Shah to the unsatisfying Sopranos conclusion doesn’t mean that many of us in the West didn’t think that episode lacked closure. Just because he says the right things and hates the right people doesn’t mean he’s left – er, right. Er, good. He’s irrelevant, because there is no terrorist threat, except for the one we created, which we can solve by leaving, but he’s also extremely relevant inasmuch as we haven’t found him yet, which proves the Administration is incompetent at protecting us from the threat of terrorism - which is a manufactured bogeyman designed to take away our civil liberties. Is it any coincidence that the tape surfaced just as a court struck down that law about that uh, that thing they were doing?  I don’t think so. As I keep saying every time a court strikes down a provision of the Administration’s post 9/11 practices, or a newspaper reveals another element of our secret strategies: we are a hair’s breadth away from a fascist state.

The speech began with a remark that went unnoted, and it’s something I wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been for a comment by Dennis Prager. Said the man in the Grecian Formula facial hair: "All praise is due to Allah, who built the ehavens and earth in justice, and created man as a favor and grace from Him. And from His ways is that the days rotate between the people, and from His Law is retaliation in kind: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and the killer is killed.”

As Prager said: it’s not about retaliation. It’s not an injunction to do unto others for the sake of vengeance. The message is proportionality. An eye for an eye, not two. A tooth for a tooth, not a mouthful.

When it’s defined as “retaliation,” the concept of a “tooth” becomes rather elastic.