Almost, almost, almost done. One more column to go, and so far it is screamingly inadequate. No surprise, given how this day began: moments before I woke, I dreamed that talk radio host Michael Savage was reading one of my pieces on air, disparaging it.

“It’s from a blog,” he said. “Or as I like to call them, blame logs. Blogs. Because that’s all they do. They blame. So this James Liiiiiiileks is writing about shaving. And I’m supposed to care. He says – no, nevermind, it’s not important.”

In my dream, I got angry: hey, shaving was a metaphor, bub. Then I woke up. Was vaguely angry at him all morning. Jerk.

No time for that, though. Got Gnat off to “day camp” – just a morning in a community center with some other kids, but she’s having fun. At least she’s not shivering under a tin roof in the rain like the last camp. Sped home, finished a column, got to work getting the rest of the stuff out of the storage room. No small task. I allowed myself a few peeks into boxes long forgotten, and yea, there were riches untold: all my comics from the early 70s. Marvel comics so old they don’t have speech balloons on the cover. (If you know the genre, you could also say “Marvel comics so old the covers have speech balloons” - the trend went back and forth.) Found all my college columns, which I’ll have to scan and print before they flake away and disintegrate. A box of journals from 1976 to 1987. From the day I left home to the year I met my wife. Eleven years of shame, I tell you – I want to burn them all, Byron-style, but I know better. Lots of magazines from the 90s: Spy magazines, WIRED, and – sob – PC Accelerator, the funniest computer magazine, evar. They all seemed like distant relics. 1998 seems like a very long time ago.

Found a box of old Matt Mason toys. Found some Golden Books from my childhood. Found a huge cache of books intended for the Gallery of Regrettable Food, but never used. I tell you, when the basement room is finally done it’s going to be magnificent: not just a repository of old musty crap, but a library from which I can draw material for years to come. It’ll all be there, easily accessible. And the room is cool and damp, which means it’ll be a humidor. AND a wine cellar. If I really had a billion dollars I would install some Mac racks down there and run the site from Jasperwood, just so I could escort visiting dignitaries to the room, throw open the door, and say “gentlemen, I give you the nerve center of my cybernetic empire.” If I had visiting dignitaries.

When I was ten I saw “A Night to Remember” on TV. It made an impression, to say the least; somewhere in one of the boxes is a fifth-grade composition notebook with a drawing of the Titanic. Explosions are shooting out all four funnels. I would see the movie every two or three years – in those days, you couldn’t just get what you wanted when you wanted it. They came along on their own schedule, which made the viewings all the more special. Movies were like comets whose orbits no one had plotted. By the time I was in college I knew the movie well, and if I chanced across it while watching my 13 inch black and white, I hunkered down and bit my nails and watched it as if I’d never seen it before. That’s the thing about “A Night to Remember” – you know the ship’s going down, and you’re still stunned when it happens.

I watched it again a few nights ago. The restored Criterion disk. Still works. Still a marvel, still a wonder of grand scale, storytelling economy and special effects. There’s really very little that compares to the horror and pathos of the old butler clutching the lost boy as the ship heads down. “We’ll find your Mummy. We’ll find her.” The director – who saw the ship as a young child – captures the entire story in that heart-shredding moment. So the next night I watched Cameron’s version. I have a callus on my fast-forward finger. Technically, it’s astonishing. The scenes of the ship’s last few moments are peerless. But it’s mostly about Rose and Jack, and I couldn’t care less about either. “A Night to Remember” told ten great stories simply; “Titanic” tells one boring story at great length. And its colossal success ensures that the story will probably never be told again on the screen in my lifetime, any more than they’ll remake “Gone With the Wind.” Watching it against I realize that the cumulative force of the movie, its overwhelming visual accuracy, drove out any caveats I had when I saw it on the big screen. But the mediocrity at the heart of the drama is apparent when you see it again. This movie ended interest in the Titanic, for the most part. It made the ship “hot,” thereby ensuring it would eventually be “not.”

I wonder if thirty years hence 9/11 will be the Titanic for a new generation, and thirty years after that, be revived again. Same meme: new century, defining catastrophe, human drama non pariel.

Anyway. Back to work. Here’s this week’s Stagworld update. Smarm awaits; click at your own peril.


Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More
c. 1995-2004 j. lileks