We have a new hamster. His name is Pretzel. He has already ingratiated himself to the entire family by not sticking his sharp teeth into our flesh when we attempt to give him a piece of food - an instinctive move that says one thing about hamsters, and that’s “they breed in numbers sufficient to replace the ones lost to sheer stupidity.” I mean, a giant gives you something crunchy and delicious, take it. You want to bite him, do it later when you have more evidence.

The previous hamster was some sort of special hamster, and subsequent internet research revealed that they were known for being skittish and standoffish. So why sell them? Excuse me, do you have Hissing Dwarf Hamsters, known colloquially as Bitey Bastards?

No; they’re unpleasant things who don’t bond and draw blood.

I don’t care! They’re so cute! Sell me one.

Sigh. Okay, and here’s the big plastic house he’ll ignore for the most part, preferring to live under this fluff and never emerge, except to stare at you with hatred and suspicion.

Pretzel is much nicer, and cuter. The old hamster cage is out, replaced by a nice airy wire model, and he’s already explored every part of it. The Previous Hamster, or TPH, never wanted to go anywhere. Maybe he was a reincarnated middle-aged husband. Although I did go somewhere this weekend; while my daughter was doing a school project at a friend’s I went to an India place with my wife, where I had Vindaloo.

It’s a difficult thing to order. You say: spicy, and might think “these people of the Nordic lands have inexperience with our fire, so we must make it medium.” But if you say “medium” you get “mild.” God knows what “Mild” is. But sometimes they say “he wants spicy? Spicy he gets” and you sit there gasping and daubing your forehead while your bowels ache in anticipation of the searing fist of hell’s tubers, and you walk outside with your head wet with curry slick, and the frozen wind hits you and it all evaporates at once.

So I said “medium, but not too medium.” It was just right. I bled internally only a little.

That constituted “getting out” this weekend. Wise. The cold that rolled through the house hit me Friday. Weak, down, tired, raw, strained: all these chinks through which opportunistic little bugs slip through and lay you low. Well, I learned from the last cold not to push myself through it all with stupid bravado: fluids and sleep and so much vitamin C that oranges, to quote my Sunday column, follow me around like ducklings, saying “Mama.”

So it was a sofa weekend. Brain befogged but capable of rote tasks. Continued to excavate items from the Closet, finding things way in the back that need to go. I can’t believe I have this:

It’s a famous brand:


Google bolero therm-o-ware, and you find lots of nifty-looking early-60s plastic drinkware, just the thing for a push-button jet-age home. Which I don’t have. Great design, brilliant colors, better-living-through-plastic aesthetics - and yet I remember that no one wanted to drink out of them, because the lip was wrong or the plastic made things taste odd or it seemed wrong for coffee.



Watching “Fahrenheit 451,” which left me cold - ha! Made a funny - the last time I tried to watch it, but it’s connecting now, mainly because I’m seeing it as a Hitchcock homage. It doesn’t make sense that the “Firemen” would only burn books, and find it absurd when someone says “didn’t firemen once put out fires?” Why, that’s absurd!

So, nothing burns in the future? No one ever drops a cigarette in bed, and sets the house alight?

It gets tiresome soon enough. The only convincing dystopian movie I’ve ever seen is “1984.” Other moves look dated. They dress the set with a few Futuristic Things, change the collars on the jackets, tweak some element of society so something we take for granted is forbidden and bad. Old age is bad, or food is scarce, or overpopulation ruined everything - a particularly amusing claim for “Soylent Green,” as if you could feed a teeming population with compressed rectangles of old people. Same with Fahrenheit 451 - it appeals to an adolescent’s need for unambiguous cackling illiberal villains.

Here’s what I find interesting: whenever the sci-fi movies of the 60s and 70s wanted to set something in a horrible totalitarian world, they just shot on location at a government housing project.

Supposedly it’s not about censorship, but the alienating effect of TV. Or radio:
wikipedia has this.

In the late 1950s, Bradbury observed that the novel touches on the alienation of people by media:

"In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction."


It's bracing to see someone unnerved by the rise of portable transistor radios.

If you're wondering what rote tasks I was doing, it was the usual stuff - but I'm now halfway through the first of the Institute's series of cheap ebooks. The first one is about this:



I think you'll like it.











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