My white iPod died on the Fourth of July. It made it to the end of the party, too. Everyone was gone; we had put away the dishes and gathered outside for the private fireworks show. I blow off lots during the party, but it’s not entirely dark when the show begins. In fact it’s quite bright.  If you’re wondering why, and whether that defeats the entire purpose of fireworks, well, yes – but the guests have another longstanding obligation to watch fireworks with relatives, so I set off a bag’s worth of China’s Finest to amuse the kids. This year was the best show I’ve put on, I think, but I saved the big guns for dark. I’m not going to ignite a $12 cylinder when the sun is still around, and it’s a Dad-and-Daughter tradition to have our own private show. 

So we went out and oohed and ahhed. (Jasper Dog did not join us – he never does, since fireworks are the bane of his life. He’s mostly deaf, so we thought this year would be better than previous years.  But no:  he went into the absolute most distant point of the basement he could find and tried to claw his way in to a closet. We found him behind the furnace an hour after it was all done. Not so deaf, then, just uninterested in what we have to say.) When I was cleaning up the patio I noticed that the iPod wasn’t playing. I took it out of its cradle, and it turned off, as though it was out of juice. But it had been charging all day. I put it back, and it clicked. And clicked. And clicked. I hooked it up to the computer; the screen flashed, and flickered, and went dark. It was gone. Last of the milky white plastic iPods.

As for the rest of the day, it was perfect. The weather was perfect. The burgers were perfect. The drinks were perfect. The breeze was perfect. The cheesecake was beyond perfection; to gaze upon it invited madness, so perfect was it. Everything was perfect, and so I have no stories or interesting things to relate. All I have is a dead iPod. Which means I can get a new one. Perfect!

Of course, I’m just a head-in-the-sand maroon, who missed the latest AP’s dribble of miserabilism. It’s interesting, too – when I was standing around outside having a manly cigar with the men, in a manly fashion, we noted that we should be walking around with our foreheads scraping the sidewalk, given our professions: Newspapers, Airlines, and Mortgages. The three of us can get spun up quick enough, if we wish, but this was the Fourth; meat and hooch and coffee and explosives awaited and the backyard was full of our children’s laughter. Said the AP:

Happy birthday, America? This year, we're not so sure.

Oh, speak for yourself. Or rather write the story the honest way: Happy birthday, America? This year, a variety of sources chosen to buttress a story intended to confirm the current storyline aren’t so sure.

Later that I night I watched “In Bruges.” Funny hitmen! One’s portly and mild, and the other’s thin and sarky. If the latter had  been played by some ugly snaggle-toothed git with a rheumy eye and a poxy complexion we’d be bored, but no, it’s Colin Ferrill, so we’re entertained: he’s such a  cocky charming killer with no interest in architecture or history! Or he will be, once he starts being cocky and charming. Any minute now!

Courtly mannered killer? Check. Hotblooded nut-boss? Check. Underplayed scenes that amuse because the guys are professional assassins? Check. The ending redeems the entire thing in a grim and amusing way – it’s a great set-up – but that’s not why I mention it. While watching this scene, I saw something flash on the screen, and it’s possible I was so relaxed that it made an instant impression – if it was supposed to hit the subconscious, it encountered so little resistance it made a Ping! Sound when it hit. It took several attempts to stop on the exact frame; couldn’t. Put it on the computer and advanced in the smaller increments allowed by law. See it?


It’s there for about half a second. I have no idea why, unless it’s some inside joke: see, wouldn’t he have made a great Bond?

Weekend grocery store observations: first of all, the day after the Fourth is a fine day to shop; the stores were empty. But they had no soft-drink sales. Every week it’s a standard rebuke to brand identity; one week Pepsi Products are on sale, and the next week it’s Coke. It’s their way of loosening your hold on your own certainties, I think; if you question your brand identity, you will question every rock-solid underpinning that girds your existence, and you’ll be more likely to accept ONE WORLD SOCIALISM.

Anyway. This week: Tiny stern Batman with action Justice Fists:

If ever there was a time not to introduce $4.99 boutique animal treats, I think it’s about now. Nevertheless, if your cat is doing his best Charles Bukowski impersonation, slip him one of these:

These are new: recyclable vehicle mugs:

It's a very conscientious display, what with the bare untinted cardboard and all, but it’s still more wasteful than just piling them in the box the display came in, or a spare box. For shame. They seem attractive enough, and if I was in the market for a mug, I’d pick one up. The green one matches the car. Here’s what caught my eye:

What the hell is that supposed to mean? The mug allows one to Drink, which presumably leads to Happy, and since the two concepts flank Earth, it’s all part of one doubleplus warmfeel, I guess. You may see more of this; just as capital letters started jumping up in the middle of compound words a few years ago, with SmartThink and HelpTalk and StarTribune and the rest, lower-case words connected only by the dot are next. It’s almost preferable to the current style, which would put the words in capital letters and separate them by periods to indicate seriousness and inarguable logic: Drink. Earth. Happy. When it’s lower case, it looks like a web address. But you wouldn’t want to go do, because they’d want you to register your mug and get email updates and join a social network populated by people who love their sustain mugs and create viral videos that show them using the mugs in new and interesting places and ways!

To tell you the truth, I almost bought one. But then I realized that I had a mug, and this would be a waste.

If they'd been two-for-one, though, that would be different.

That's still legal here, right? Two-for-one? In Great Britain, it may not be legal for long:

The Government is to launch a campaign to stamp out Britain's waste food mountains as part of a global effort to curb spiralling food prices.

Supermarkets will be urged to drop "three for two" deals on food that encourage shoppers into bulk-buying more than they need, often leading to the surpluses being thrown away. The scandal of the vast mountains of food that are thrown away in Britain while other parts of the world starve is revealed in a Cabinet Office report today. It calls for a reduction in food waste: up to 40 per cent of groceries can be lost before they are consumed due to poor processing, storage and transport.

There’s a lot in those two graphs. The relationship between “vast mountains of food being thrown away” – Kilamanjaro? Everest? McKinley? – and starvation elsewhere is not precise. In fact, the article says:

Global food prices have risen significantly in recent years due to a combination of poor harvests in some exporting countries; higher costs for energy, fertiliser and transport; the diversion of some commodities to biofuel; and a long-term rise in demand for grain to feed a growing global population

Less waste in Britain would probably do farg-all for the rest of the world, although it would be sensible on its own merits. This, for example, makes sense, doesn't it?

Mr Brown's determination to act follows The Independent's campaign to reduce waste through excessive packaging of food in supermarkets. The Government is to launch a major offensive to encourage supermarkets, restaurants, schools and all public sector bodies as well as householders to try to cut down dramatically on the amount of food they throw away.

But again, we're conflating two different issues. Packaging is one thing, the amount of actual food tossed away is another. I’m all for reducing “excessive packaging” – I can’t stand throwing away half a pound of cardboard and plastic after every meal, and it’s not because I spend sleepless nights worrying about landfill capacity. It’s just unnecessary. I feel the same way about buying music that comes on a disk in a plastic box. It's like buying a hamburger that comes in boxing gloves - what's the point? Cut it out!

I’m not an absolutist about the matter- there are some easily-microwavable hotdogs-with-buns (G)Nat likes, and I keep a pack on hand in the summer, because the reflective foil cooks the bun perfectly. She has one every week or so. Sue me. If modern society collapses she will be able to regale her grandchildren with tales of the miracle bread that came out of the humming ding-box all warm and soft.

Everything else goes in the recycling bin. I don’t compost, for the same reasons we don’t crap in buckets and spread it in the fields. From my father I learned the boon and the glory of the flush lav, because he grew up without one; from my mother, I gained an appreciation of the In-Sink-Erator garbage disposal.

Here’s the nut of the pith of the gist:

*The average UK household now devotes about 9 per cent of its expenditure to food, down from 16 per cent in 1984. But the poorest 10 per cent of households in the UK saw 15 per cent of their expenditure go on food in 2005-06; the richest 10 per cent just 7 per cent.

Food costs have been going doing for a quarter century, in other words. Or the average UK household size is smaller. Or both. As for the poorest 10 percent, I’d love to see that broken down along ethnic lines. Theodore Dalyrimple’s book "Life at the Bottom" had a section on underclass eating habits; the poor native Britons ate premade crap from the corner store. They never sat down for a meal around the table with the family, but grazed on chips and fried food all day and threw the wrappers in the street and the yards. They had no tradition of meals as commonly understood 30 years before. It’s more expensive to eat that way, of course.  Immigrants cooked all their meals, and as such ate healthier meals made from raw foods sold by tiny “ethnic” grocery stores.

Then there’s this: a UN report that blames biofuels for the hike in food prices, as many of us suspect, and the UK study above notes, if rather far down on the list of problems.=So then, let’s stop the Ethanol Madness, expand our current baseload while pursuing feasible alternatives that won’t screw up the watertable and the food supply. You’d think that would be fairly obvious, but since there’s so much invested in ethanol and so much ideological opposition to expanding the capacity of existing technologies right now, before we really seriously need it, the politicians will make the easier choice: tell you to buy less food, and tell the stores to stop two-for-one sales because it encourages waste.

Excuse me, sir, but food is expensive. Can I have some more two-for-one-sales?

No! You’ll only waste it!

This is a transatlantic temptation, and we’ve heard. As Barack Obama has said: we can’t expect to eat as much as we want and expect the rest of the world to say that’s okay.

I wouldn’t be completely surprised if McCain came up with Weigh-and-Trade, where you can eat a bit more Soylent Red if you’ve lost a few ounces since the last mandatory trip to the scale, but I would be somewhat surprised.

Ah well. Is it just me, or do all the simple obvious options seem off the table?

New Matchbook! See you over at