Note! Warning! Achtung! I am not even pretending to have the time to edit this tonight. ‘Tis what it is.

No, I’m not converting to Judaism. Just threw that in at the end of yesterday’s Bleat to give me something to write about at the start of this one. I knew that Tuesday nights are rough; I knew I’d need a lead-in. It’s like the bottom of the hour in every Mission: Impossible: Willy The Strongman is dragging the body of General Malevolenki across a parking ramp, when the guard says “Halt!” Commercial. Then you come back, and the guard says “Your shoe is untied!” and it all goes on as usual, with nary a hitch.

It hasn’t been all work today. It was work this morning to finish one column, work in the afternoon to write another, but around four I realized I was going to really enjoy supper – mainly because I’d forgotten to eat lunch. So we all went to the Convention Grille, a neighborhood place that’s been around since 1937. Unchanged, for the most part. Tile floors, ancient stools, moderne décor. The Convention was a sister restaurant to the Annie’s Parlour and Greenstreets restaurants, all known for great burgers, shakes as thick as fresh cement on a March morning, fries served in portions normally reserved for elephant, and big soft fresh buns kissed by the grease of the grill. Only the Convention remains. There’s something about the corner that traps time, perhaps – across the street is a big commercial laundry from the 20s. It was the sticks then, but it’s the middle of a prosperous first-tier suburb now. Thirty or twenty years ago such corners were common - new strip malls on one corner, an ancient feed depot on the other. Now it looks just plain spooky. Why hasn’t anyone bought the place and put up a Starbucks / Gap / Banana Republic? The closest ones are six blocks away, after all.

The bun was cold and small and pale and stale. And it hadn’t been grilled. You had to ask for that detail now. It filled me with sadness, but then I remembered I was hungry and I filled me with meat. Gnat insisted on a bowl of pink ice cream with a cherry on top – Lord knows where she got that, but we say that a lot these days. As the child said after she’d made her request to the waitress:

“I hope she doesn’t take long.”

It just sounded so charming, so grown up. Not “I want it now!” or “Wherezit?” or “Will it be a long time?” but “I hope she doesn’t take long.” Is there anything better than three years old? Four, of course.

Downloading some trailers for treats as I work. Note to self: see Alien in theaters again. Additional note: bring small pocket knife to Matrix Revolutions so you can stab self in leg to remind self whose brilliant idea it was to endure this slab o’ crap again. Which I will. Key quote from the trailer:

“If we must give our lives, then we give them hell before we do!”

Hey, pal, they’re robot squids moving en masse, directed by an offside intelligence. You give them hell, they do not particularly care. Besides, I have nothing invested in the survival of Zion. You just know that place smells. It’s odd, but movies have ceased to be important in the way they once were. I still love them; they’re still America’s Best Entertainment Value, unless they contain trace elements of Adam Sandler, but I no longer go to the movies hoping that this will be the One True Clear Sign that the zeitgeist is moving in the direction I desire. I assume the big ones will be clamorous bang-a-thons, that the small ones will be lapidary character studies with precise insights on the nature of modern life, and when the lights go up it will mean very little. Movies don’t change the world. The world changes movies.

No; no. I take that back. Last night I watched the last half of “Three Days of the Condor.” I’m sure I’ve discussed that here before; I’m almost afraid to google the matter and discover the idiocy I scribbled about it last year, but. This movie helped to make a difference. It was the right film at the right time, and it reinforced everything we suspected back in the middle 70s: the CIA was full of evil rogue elements who were doing, like, unspeakable evil rogue things that made ordinary decent smart nervy Americans like Robert Redford look exasperated and shout “It’s all a game to you, isn’t it?” So true. SO true. At the end we learn the plot that led to the assassination of Condor’s sector, and the modern viewer just has to laugh. Redford has Cliff Robertson at gunpoint in Times Square. They’re walking west on 42nd Street.“Do we have plans to invade the Middle East,” says Redford, incredulous.

Imagine that. The government has contingency plans to invade the “Middle East.” News flash: the government has a plan to invade Tasmania, if the need arises. But what do you expect of a character who is A) a CIA employee, and B) has to dial directory assistance to find out the area code for Washington DC? I know, I know – that was for the audience’s sake, but still.

Robertson, soulless puppetmaster that he is, says that the plans are just games. “What if. How many men. What would it take. Is there a cheaper way to destable (sic) a regime. ” Oh! how we bristled in the audience. Redford spoke for all of us: it’s all games to you people, isn’t it?

Makes you want to call your Congresspersons and insist that the CIA stop drawing up contingency plans for dealing with the Middle East. I know that’s how I felt. I know that this and a half-dozen other movies reinforced the idea that the greatest threat to my freedom and safety came from the CIA and the military. Madmen! Maniacs! But the ending is more ambiguous now than it was when first I saw it – perhaps because the demons don’t seem so demonic now. Condor’s “clarity” seems like an amusing luxury.

The movie came out in 1975. You can see the World Trade Center in several scenes.

Also took a few moments away from The Pressing Obligations (trust me: finishing three columns today was the least of my worries) to tweak and tinker with the New Bleat Paradigm, coming to a browser near you in January 2004. This Bleat design has been pretty much unchanged since it debuted in 1997. It has outlasted marriages and governments. This entire site is based on a simple template that feels old and busted, and while I am not looking forward to changing all eleventy million pages, I probably will. Next year will see some big changes – when my wife goes back to work, for example, she will be working different hours, and I’ll be back to being Daytime Dad. Hurrah for that; I miss it. But it also means that this ridiculous college-era schedule I’ve enjoyed lately will be replaced with Serious Adult Hours, and there will be fewer opportunities to babble into the wee hours. There will still be a Daily Bleat. It might get bloggier. I don’t know. Expect a lot of book promotion for “Interior Desecrators” and tidbits from the Next Big Thing. Expect more Gallery of Regrettable Food, because – well, because. I have so much stuff to add to this site I really don’t know where to begin, and sometimes I think the only way I can make this site live up to its potential is to take a month or two off from daily updates and work like hell on it.

Radio ace Dennis Prager had Robert Florczak, a children’s book artist, as his guest today, talking about the decline of beauty in the modern world. Fans of Maxfield Parrish will enjoy Florczak’s work. I like Parrish - he’s like Norman Rockwell after you’ve inhaled some Freon. (Not that I’d know.) And yes, I like Rockwell. Technically, he has few equals. He always portrays the moment before or after the primary plot point. He never tells you the entire story; he gives you an image that lets you imagine the story for yourself. This is one of the reasons he’s unpopular with the guardians of high culture, I think; his ability to imply the narrative is so overwhelming that people think his work is didactic, a closed loop, a C major chord. But show people a Klee, and show them a Rockwell, and ask them to talk about what’s happening, what’s being shown, what’s implied. They’d go for hours on the Rockwell. They’d stall on the Klee. Doesn’t mean the Klee isn’t interesting - just that the Rockwell is more universal, and does require familiarity with 20th century abstraction to understand what sets it apart. Rockwell is a big hot hamburge. Klee and the rest are like those elaborate desserts youu get in fancy restaurants, with elaboarate carmelized latticework stuck in the ice cream. You feel compelled to ooh and ahh before you dig in, lest you appear to be a barbarian.

And if I can put on my Philistine Propeller Beanie: big whoop. I love Klee, but it’s just Klee. I’m not inclined to hang on the wall that SatEvePost cover of the grinning tomboy with the black eye, but if I was asked to write a story about it, I could give you 9000 words. Somehow this makes it bad art.

Go figure.

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