Spare, isn’t it? After last week’s high-bandwidth extravaganza, time to even things out. There’s only so much bandwidth in the world and it was selfish of me to take so much. Actually, I had intended for this site to look much different today, with many more geegaws to crash browsers and clutter up your cache, but I’m still fine tuning the product. Also, I didn’t work much over the weekend. Usually I get everything in place for the next week, but you know what? To heck with that for a while. This week I plan on watching movies and writing a bit less and reading more. Working a bit less. Reading books to my kid a bit more. Playing Wii with her and teaching her how to play the guitar she got for Christmas. The internet will do fine with a few less items heaped on the camel's back.

Which books will I read? I’m still working on “Next,” by Michael Crichton. It’s the genetic experimentation  book, just as “Prey” was the nanotechnology book and “Andromeda Strain” was the xenovirus book and “Bread” was the book that detailed an unforeseen, nightmarish scenario out of the Atkins diet. He has a knack for getting out a book just as an issue blooms in the public mind. This one is less interesting than the others; the structure is completely scattershot, and it lost its this-could-be-really-real feel around the time we met the talking parrot who could  count and reveal marital indiscretions to the other partner, on purpose. I do like Crichton, though; faddish topics doused with cold water always makes for a nice contrarian read.

Last week went unreported here, since I was recounting the previous week. Perish the thought, I know; what trips to Target did I neglect to detail? What New-Year’s insights went unrecorded? Nothing happened. On New Years we all played Wii. I’m so very impressed with that little machine. And the newspaperman in me – well, the former newspaperman, since it seems unlikely I’ll get back into dead-tree journalism ever again (union rules, if you’re curious) (yes, union rules. Due to the classification of my position, I can’t write for the paper) I felt a little ill upon noting the Wii News Channel. It’s fast and succinct. There's no good reason to have a news feed in the Wii machine, but there's no good reason not to have one. It's a reminder that news is just a feature, not a destination or a place; it's part of the stuff that falls from the cloud.

If gaming machines have news, shouldn't newspaper websites have games? Seriously: papers run comics, so they’re not above something "funny" and trivial. Why not provide addictive time-wasting flash games? They wouldn’t have to be based on the news, although I suppose they could be – Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich have been buried under a ton of corn in an Iowa silo! Click the falling cobs to keep them from dying, and click on the fallen cobs to clear a path! Between levels, an ad, some headlines. 

I watched “The Paper” the other night. Michael Keaton – to complete the Bleat trifeca of guys named Michael with last naes that begin with hard C sounds – is great, as usual, and Robert Duvall is avenucularly rumpled in that bygone old-newsguy sense. I always thought the line “I have a prostate as a big as a bagel” made no sense, because people envisioned, well, a bagel. Grapefruit would have worked better, but this was a movie about New Yawk, and they eat bagels in New Yawk.

It’s a period piece, a remnant of the era when the only thing newspapers had to fear was other papers. The iconic image of the start of the news cycle - the bundle of papers tossed on a street corner - now looks as archaic as smoking doctors and men in hats.

Saturday night we joined some other parents at a post-kids-birthday party chili fest. The men sat at one table and discussed things that used electricity and the women sat at another table and discussed everything else, probably. At one point my wife waved me over and announced she had volunteered my services for the upcoming school Read-a-thon kick-off. And what would I be doing? Reading? I can do that.

“You’re going to be in the band.”

The band.

“I play the bass,” said one of the other moms. Apparently the fellow to whom I’d been talking for a good portion of the night played the drums.

Uh – you want someone who can play an instrument.

“Oh, come on! You’ll be great.”

What’s the song?

“Rock Star by Smashmouth, We Got the Beat by the Go-gos, and some song by Hannah Montana.”

I told them I’d think about it. So I went and thought about it. I thought about how my real Stratocaster weights 90 pounds, and my faux Stratocaster is much lighter but goes out of tune if you do something unusual, like play it. And I hadn’t played it for a long time.

That night I learned “Rock Star,” which isn’t hard. There’s that one chord, if you know what I mean. “We Got the Beat” is the sort of song you should be able to play the first time, or else you have no business playing it. I was sick of it long ago and I’m sick of it now, but it will provide the opportunity for a few good crowd-pleasing windmill chords.

For some reason I thought (G)Nat would be delighted to hear I would be playing for the event, but I forgot that she’s seven going on 14, and was utterly mortified to hear the news.

I’ll be embarrassed, she said.

All the more reason to buy some black-and-white checked Vans and put on KISS makeup, I think.

Yes, there will be video.

This is something I found while scanning some Lance Lawsons last week. 1948:

It's the source material for this.

I don’t know how many cartoonists were drawing bills this way – most of them, probably. It was one of the conventions, along with planets with limbs and facial features, walking along with a hat mashed over the artic regions and a worried expression while War – a big brute in an animal skin, carrying a club – loomed in the background. The planet was usually named John Q. Public, and had latitude and longitude lines. Like the real planet. Like most average citizens.

Off to; see you there. All the regular stuff returns next week, along with a new feature: the 1973 Sears Catalog, dissected. It’ll be updated weekly throughout 2008. It's "Interior Desecrators" meets the Dorcus collection. Yes, I know - other flickr sites have posted a page here and there. No disrespect, but this is a cultural artifact that requires a grand examination.