Last day of school on Wednesday. Overwritten thoughts on the matter can be found at

Got the new Flip Ultra today – it’s slightly smaller than the previous one, but more important, it’s New and Improved and has 27% more sudsing action, so I had to have it. I’m trying to slim down my mobile studio to five pounds for covering the summer conventions and the Fair. Flip has learned a lot from Apple; the unboxing experience was akin to opening up an Apple Product, right down to the wings that unfold to unveil the product. Beneath the camera, a hole, and you need no prompting to poke in your digit george-porgie style, and lift up the lid that reveals more goodies. Nice touch: real batteries. Duracell, not cheap Chinese Panasony models spat out by some Shanghai arsenic-belching factory. Lame: the carrying case. Looks like a tobacco pouch. This thing needs a translucent sleeve, as well as a way to carry the tripod.

The first one came in a plastic blister pack that showed you the product – this was necessary, since no one knew what it was. Now that people know – the Flip has an insane market share for cheap good-quality digital cameras – they can shroud it in a sexy box. But it’s still not Apple. The Apple iPod boxes just have the finger hole, without explanation. The Flip box says “open here” above the hole, and lists what’s contained in the crypt below. Somewhere someone was convinced people wouldn’t know what to do. We have to tell them. They’ll be confused. They’ll be angry. But those are the stupid people who are probably angry there’s not a button that puts the videos on YouTube, and think you don’t need a computer. Shouldn’t we go for the sleek, understated look? Okay, tell you what. We’ll take off the line on the box about needing an internet connection and a YouTube account to upload videos. Deal? Fine.

Not enough dog photos here. So here’s a dog photo.

Before (G)Nat goes to school, she puts Pikachu on a pillow for his nap. Jasper has never dared touch any of her stuffed creatures. He does, however, spend most of the day on the sofa, and if he knocks over a pillow, well, whatever.

Tonight he had an unimaginable treat: some friends came by with other kids and ANOTHER DOG and they all went to the ice cream store where you could get a FROSTY PAWS alongside another dog and it was great.

Oh, my day? Wrote the buzz, shot some video for the Jimmy Lileks Show Program. Video improv is fun. Otherwise, here's the basic recipe for the day:

Step one: buy a Honda Element. Enjoy for a year and a half.

Step two: note with dismay that the heater no longer functions after you leave a car wahs. Take it in for repairs. Be told it doesn’t qualify as a warranty repair; give service manager a baleful expression, point out that the car has 11,000 miles. Matter is resolved to your satisfaction. Adjust expression accordingly to indicate gratitude tempered with the sense that this should not have been an issue. Really. Go on with life.

Repeat step two four more times. The last time, you should be told that it’s a design flaw – no, a peculiarity – no, a fact of nature that exists in all Hondas in the universe: you must turn off the blowers and set the vents to Recirculate and turn off your flashers and open the glove box and shout HOP CLAP JUMP KWEEPA while you go through the car wash. Leave dealership with a nagging sense of foreboding.

Step seven: run car through car wash. The heater no longer functions, nor does the A/C. You had everything in the proper position, or so you thought. OR DID YOU? Call service department Manager, who promises to bring in an ENGINEER to solve it.


Step Eight: return the next day, but before you do, stop at Barnes and Noble to get a book for your daughter’s teacher. You want to get her “The Forgotten Man” by Amity Shlaes, a brilliant study of the Depression, but it’s in paperback. Seems a little light for a gift. Poke around the store until you find the hardcover, for ten dollars more. That’s five dollars a cover. Maybe four bucks per cover, plus the spine for two bucks. At the last minute, decide to get a gift card. Call wife to confirm wisdom of the change in plans. Wife is not available, but the nice woman behind you in line couldn’t help but hear and she says it’s a good idea and frankly she wishes she’d done the same. Proceed under the delusion that this supporting evidence will somehow be admissible in a court of marriage.

Buy yourself Vincent Bugliosi’s book on the JFK assassination, supposedly the most complete and compelling case for the lone-gunman theory ever assembled. You want to read it because you are a free-thinker and question authority, and do not believe what you’re told by everyone else – in order words, you’re one of those fringe-case lunatics who believes that Oswald acted alone.

Step Nine: go to Dairy Queen for supper with daughter. Having been skeptical of their new effort to reposition the chain as an upscale fast-food alternative, and having recalled with no pleasure the thin beaten plywoody burgers they used to serve, but always interested in new advances in brand identity, and equally curious to see a restaurant designed by your neighbor (he’s the DQ architect) you enter the place with slight trepidation.

“Are you James Lileks?” the clerk at the counter asks. Damn! Now you have to enjoy yourself. You can’t complain if they know you. You never want to be remembered as the guy who complained, unless it’s at an auto dealership repair shop. Turns out the kid is in the Minnesota Youth Orchestra. Very tall with long arms. What does he play? “The trombone.” Well, perfect.

Your hamburger is excellent and your daughter’s hot dog is “as good as Disney,” which is high praise. The store has old photos of bygone Dqs on the wall, including those wretched barn-shaped structures they put up in the sixties. That’s where you went in Fargo, after the classic smaller DQ was closed. It was down the street from the bread bakery, which always made the trip extra special: you got to smell fresh bread and have a cone, or, if you had forgotten the last time you suffered an incandescently painful aneurism, a Mr. Misty. The picture under the barn says “Barn Fresh Style Introduced in the 60s ‘. “

Barn fresh. It takes a certain form of tin-eared ignorance to use those words together. It’s like “Stable-flavored.”

Step Ten: drive to the dealership. En route, take a call from a friend who read about the Chuck Taylor Problem and reminds you of two online alternatives. Receive a gentle chiding for not calling him. Apologize by noting that you never call anyone, which is true. All of life is the taking of calls now, not the making of them. When was the last time you met someone for a civilized lunch of conversation and repartee? Well, yesterday, but they called you.

Step Eleven: vow to call more people.

Step Twelve: drive up to the dealership. While driving around with your daughter, you play Slug Bug: five points for a VW, twenty points for a classic VW, ten points for an Element – aka “TOASTER!”  - and forty points for an Element that looks just like yours. Drive into the lot and start shouting TOASTER TOASTER TOASTER as your daughter does the same; it’s brutal to sort out who claimed which one.

Get the Element back from the dealership. They couldn’t do anything. You’re shown the Service Bulletins, the holy writ of the mechanics, and there are two items that pertain to your problem. Neither mentions your make or year. Both cite “dampness” inside the vehicle, which you don’t have. Ask to speak to the dealership’s manager.

You’re ushered into his office. Nice man. You take a seat at the table and explain the situation. You note how the service bulletins don’t apply to your vehicle, how it seems odd Honda would let this problem go unaddressed for 14 years; how you never had this problem before with any Honda; how the owner’s manual makes no reference to the precise settings of the ventilation controls to avoid this situation; how this must surely mean than any Honda traveling at a slow rate in torrential rains would suffer a burnout in the system, especially when one considers that five minutes in a heavt downpour in slow highway traffic would surely exceed the amount of water dumped on the car in one pass through a car wash. You ask if the manager of the dealer ever checks his vent positions before he washes his car.

You relax your grip on his tie so he can speak.

He does not check the position. You tell him, with the same calm even tone used throughout the discussion, that you want a resolution, or your want your money, and you will send a letter to the main office, and we both know that means that ninjas will enter by the side window and slit the throats of the entire staff.

Step Thirteen: go home. Sit down to read the Bugliosi book. Realize to your dismay that it’s an edited version – all the events with none of the arguments or evidence. You really want to read the entire thing, because it would be a pleasure to read 1,000,000 painstakingly chosen words that build an indisputable case, but will nevertheless mean nothing whatsoever to Jesse Ventura. (Update: O sweet irony. Let the picking and choosing of authoritative accounts begin!)

Step fourteen: there is no step fourteen, unless “vodka” counts.

New Minneapolis. It's a small but potent addition. Here's a preview:


Ah. there's your old Minneapolis - a trolley, cars parked where a bank (now a hotel) would later rise. A strange Egyptian building that housed a bank that would later be purchased by a man who would buy the Twins baseball team, and whose son would produce the Sean Penn movie "Into the Wild."

None of that was known to anyone at 12:45 on a late winter day in 19-forty-something. Enjoy! See you at