News: the man who invented pinball died at the age of 100. A perfect age, as if he turned over the machine. It’s sad that he lived long enough to see pinball pass from the scene, but I hope before he died someone put an iPad in his hands and let him see what they were doing with his ideas in this new art form. The pinball apps are great, but nothing matches the real thing. No one will ever cluster around a guy playing pinball on his iPad and watch with hushed awe because the dude is awesome and he cannot lose. Don’t give me that “Tommy” crap; no one who played pinball bought the idea that Tommy was a Pinball Wizard because he was “deaf, dumb, and blind” and thus was able to connect with the table by non-conventional means. Deaf? No problem. Dumb? No problem. Blind? Big problem.

Found an orphaned PC game on the web last month, the port of “Eight Ball Deluxe.” It wasn’t the same. The physics were good, but something told me there was no chance the ball would ever graze the array of targets on the right and clear out four, five, the way you could do it if you had a finely tuned machine and the ball kissed the targets just so. If I understand the man’s innovations correctly, he banished Tilt to the dark realm of Gameover, and replaced brute force with skill. Before he came along, men put the ball in play, banged the table back and forth, hoping for the most before the inevitable hapless drain. Fate, cruel fate. He invented the Flipper, which put a thumb in the eye of Fitzgerald’s maxim. No second act in American lives, you say? Maybe so. But there’s an extra ball.

Just realized I have to add pinball scenes to the second and third novels. Pinball - and the rise of video games - is a subplot to the 1980 novel. Which I’ll never get to revise until I finish the 2009 novel.

Which is hopelessly stuck.

But! Bright new topic to change the subject. American TV producers looked at the BBC Sherlock reboot, and thought: there’s something we could do. How could we utterly ruin everything that gives it historical resonance and artistic integrity?

Let’s make Watson a woman.

And so Lucy Lui will be Watson, or Watdaughter, thereby guaranteeing the burning, furious hatred of 99.5% of the audience that would be otherwise expected to tune in. It’s like making Christopher Robin a girl. There is, at heart, a lie: the roles are interchangeable, gender-neutral. Then there is an assertion that exposes the lie: by changing the gender, it will be different. This assertion exposes a bias: this difference is preferable; otherwise, why would we have done it? This bias exposes a misunderstanding of the source material: the difference invalidates the fundamentals. Holmes and Watson are men, and hence share a set of ideas, expectations, and assumptions. They share a deep friendship of the sort one can only have with a member of one’s own gender. Sure, you can alter that for a remake; you can have Miss Marple traipsing around Europe with Hercule Poirot, but it’s not going to be a Marple story, and it’s not going to be a Poirot mystery.

Let’s say an executive seriously considered remaking “Sex and the City” but wanted to replace one of the women with a straight male. A Don Draper type. He’d bring a distinctively male perspective to the ensemble, wouldn’t he? Why, it would invigorate a tired formula. Shake things up. Sure, it would change the way the other characters interacted, but that would be for the better. No, wait: “Prime Suspect” with Clive Owens in the Helen Mirren role. PERFECT.


Ended up at a Mexican chain restaurant the other night. There was a cut-out of a man standing on a balcony that unnerved my daughter -



As well it should have. It was Don Pablo’s, which I recall was the “fresh, authentic” alternative to places like Chi-Chi’s, which were regarded as little more than sellers of doughy logs draped in a pound of cheese. Do Chi-Chi’s even exist? Googling . . . no. There are still a few in Europe, but the American chain gurgled out its death throes in 2004. The name survives in the form of small packets of taco and salsa spices, which are sold by Hormel. They’re a Minnesota company. So was Chi-Chi’s: the first was built in 1975 in Richfield, and I believe it was this place:


It will soon be destroyed for an enormous hardware store. Justice: across the street is a very authentic Mexican / Central American cafe and grocery store, serving the large Hispanic immigrant community that’s moved into the first-ring suburb and shored it up nicely. The store - if you swing around the google map and see - consists of a glass box and an old familiar shape, the Embers restaurants. Another dead chain.


Anyway, Don Pablo’s went bankrupt as well, closed half its stores, then sold the rest. Hadn’t been there in four years or so; have no great desire to run back soon, if “soon” is elastically defined to include “ever,” because it was just bland glop. Had the fajitas. There was a curious flavor to the chicken I couldn’t put my finger on unless I stuck it down my throat, which was tempting. Wouldn’t mention this at all if it hadn’t been for the menu. Perhaps I just don’t get out enough, but do all chains now have calorie counts on every item? It completely ruined the experience. I don’t want to know. Shut up. Tell me if I ask.

Drove around on Sunday taking some pictures for the promo sites for the novel page in the Store. What is The Store? What it sounds like. When is it coming? When Apple approves a few things and I finalize some designs. I needed some pix of the places where I wrote a novel many years ago, and some shots of Dinkytown for the 1980 novel. Just a few blocks away is the old industrial heart of the city, the milling district; now it’s home to a dozen condo projects, side by side with this:


Another old elevator. I could shoot those things forever.


Not to say the area is devoid of vegetation:



I swung past the Basilica, and despite the biting cold decided to walk around and see it. Through tears. I like the way this one turned out.



That’s heavily futzed. The original:



So am I AN ARTIST? Everyone’s an artist. Am I A PHOTOGRAPHER? Everyone’s a photographer. Whether you’re a good one, that’s the issue. In the case of my stuff, the “creativity” is expressed through selection, then alteration - cropping, filtering, that sort of thing. (I have five or so programs that apply filters, but there’s not one I use raw; you have to tweak to get what you want. I never run anything through a filter and say Done! because that feels too easy.

It has to be hard to be art. Not impossible. But something has to push back.











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