Hey, I have an idea. Thursday’s Bleat could be a special feature with lots of links. We could call it . . . Thurlsday! Get it? Thurlsday?


Sorry, let me push the body aside . . . there. Sorry. Don’t know who that was. The dog will make short work of him. But he did have a good idea; as I roam around the interweb I visit all sorts of curious sites, and for some reason I think that people travel in the same tight circle I do. Wrong. So today we’ll have a festival of linkage. First the daily report on my grindingly boring but infinitely satistfying life:

It’s hot here, true July. All is forgiven. The mornings are humid, the noon is cruel, the afternoons long and stern, the evenings perfection. After six nights of sitting outside with a cool beverage listening to the ticka-ticka-ticka of the sprinklers, it now feels as if it’s always been this way. Such are the delusions that let us accept winter as something normal, instead of a vast manifestation of existential despair. (And I like winter.) Gnat had “camp” this week in the morning, so I’ve been able to spend the AM polishing whatever column was due. This morning we both woke late – my wife rolled out early, left us to slumber, and I got up eleven minutes before camp was supposed to start. And we got there on time. Why? Because I lay everything out the night before, and because camp is close, and because I know the twists and turns of the Minnehaha Parkway so well I can do about 45 MPH without flipping the Galileo and flinging it into the creek.

After camp we played her latest game: all her stuffed animals are sick. The Hello Kittys all have “the flu, the cold, and the chigen pox.” The Care Bears, however, had a new ailment: “the tick.” I don’t know where she got that. My role was to pretend I was a grandmother bear who was visiting the others. I was advised to stay clear of the bears, because they had the tick; I had to explain that ticks were not contagious. This changed everything. The Care Bears were freed from quarantine and allowed to play with Barbies, who never get any disease. Then we played hide and seek. Then we went to Target and dropped a Ben on a massive resupply mission. Included in the bill was a Barbie as Rapunzel computer game, which made Gnat vibrate with anticipation.

“I can’t wait to play my new computer game!” she said. “It looks so beautiful!” I think the same thing about Max Payne 2. That’s my girl.

Home. Dispersed the purchased items. One of them was a battery-powered razor for the bug-out box, the bin of things I have should we need to suddenly decamp for whatever reason. I hate that box. I hate looking at it, I hate having it, but: it’ll get us to Fargo. It’s an interesting little microcosm of what I think we would need if we had to bolt for the territories; has all the usual medical stuff, a small stove for making a meal or coffee, lights, wind-up radios, packaged milk, a ration of hooch, etc. I know, I’m being paranoid. It’s not as if they’ve arrested two suspected terrorists at the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport. They’ve only arrested one.

Made salmon, listened to Hugh, had supper with Gnat. “Mommy’s late again,” she sighed. But Mommy appeared as if conjured by her child’s remonstration; I walked the dog, then hit the road for some errants. Listened to Hugh. He had Matthew Yglesias on. It's not the token lib slot; Hugh has lots of liberals on the show. Matthew is the liberal blogger who replaced lib-blogger Joshua Marshall. I have to confess that I didn;'t read his blog much before he was on Hugh's show, but now that I've heard him for a few weeks I can only conclude that he is more interested in truth than partisan advantange, and hence has no future in politics. He was presented with several chances to spin on behalf of his party, and he declined them all in favor of stating his honest opinions, several of which I agreed with, or at least admired on their own merits. It makes Hugh’s center-right audience want to read his blog, as indeed I expect they do – if only to see what the other side is saying. Marshall, on the other hand, always sounded peevish, arrogant and condescending. I never understood that. You have the chance to speak weekly to the enemy camp, and you adopt the tone that confirms their worst suspicions. Note to people who do radio interviews with hosts who hold divergent opinion: be of good cheer. It goes a long way.

Someone please take Mr Yglesias aside and suggest that he leave Washington now. I mean, now! Forever! People with his qualities either turn into something they hate, get shivved hard in the kidneys by their friends for transient gain, or end up as gray pale wonk-nerds puttering around the offices of magazines that sell 17,000 copies but consider themselves influential because a President was photographed holding an issue 16 years ago. Go! Go now! Flee! The best you can hope for in DC is to be a modern-day Walter Lippman. Newsflash: NO ONE REMEMBERS WALTER LIPPMAN. Except the people who want to be remembered as the modern-day Walter Lippman.

It's odd, but it's true: I never felt more disconnected from this nation than when I lived in its capital.

Okay: Thurlsday.

This makes me chuckle, in a cruel sort of way. It’s a custom PC case for the guys who build their own, and it’s, ah, inspired – maybe! – by the new Mac G5 case style. It’s things like this that give the game away; you realize how much the PC world secretly lusts to look as cool as Mac stuff. Oh, I can hear it now: no we dont! Macs are teh sux0r! But really: look at that thing; I can almost hear it wobble like a thin sheet of metal. And it’s on roller skates, for heaven’s sake. (Spats nod: Gizmodo.)

I’m still plowing through the boxes of stuff, and came across a book I swiped from my parents’ shelf: a “Red Primer for Children and Diplomats.” A history of the USSR written in the early sixties, illustrated in a very Soviet style. It fascinated me as a kid, and it scared the hell out of me too. I googled the author to see what became of him, and to my delight the entire book is up on the web.

One of the comics I saved was “Captain Action,” based on a toy aimed at the GI Joe demographic. The book was drawn by Gil Kane, as you can see:

As with all comics that feature the death of a main character on the cover, no main character actually died. But in the middle of the mag was an inexplicable two-page layout, poorly drawn, detailing the visit of a young hopeful cartoonist to the headquarters of DC comics. Take a look:

I googled the cartoonist, Frank Viviano, wondering if the kid had just stepped back into the smothering mists of history. There certainly wasn’t much promise in the illustrations, after all. Wouldn’t it be cool to find out that he was living in Arizona running a popular restaurant? I could call him up and ask if he remembered appearing in this book I’d saved for more than a quarter of a century. “You – you have a copy?” he’d say. “I don’t believe it. I lost my only copy in a flood, and never thought I’d see it again. Bless you!” Or so those stories go if the fates decide it’s a happy-ending day.

Well, imagine my surprise.

The Evil Empire wasn’t just evil, it was also pathetic: behold the Eastern Bloc’s answer to Pac Man, “Poly Play.” It had no sound. Kids had to say “wocka-wocka-wocka” themselves as they played. You can imagine how your average East German kid would play this thing and realize, instantly, that it was an utterly insuperior knockoff, and that he lived in a failed society incapable of giving him anything that people in the West so casually enjoyed.

They even stole our fonts. Losers. (Spats nod: Engadget.)

For most of my life I liked nearly every new skyscraper; in the 70s I didn’t know enough to realize how craptacular half of them were, and in the 80s I was so besotted with post-modernism I didn’t care. The crop of the 90s was hit and miss. Lately I grumble more than I cheer. The London Pickle, for example, strikes me as the most successful evocation of a suppository ever attempted by modern architects, but I am not sure that is a good thing. These buildings seem to exist in a future that has not yet arrived, and I’m not entirely comfortable with them. We’ll see. But if that future has fast-food restaurants like this, I am so there. Or I will be. I hope.

Gerald’s site is one of my daily visits; I got a dank chill reading his musings on the fleet deployment. If you don’t know who he is, well, you probably do. Google him. I have a Time magazine from the middle 90s telling us about the coming wonders of the Internet; he wrote the lead essay.

One of the best arts blogs out there – mainly because I agree with the author most of the time, have no idea who he is or why he does this, and admire his approach to topics others would regard as minor or specious. He’s really good on animation. Really good. (Spats nod: Teachout)

Finally, my friend Hugh has a book to sell, I think. (He’s been vague about it lately.) Here’s his site, and if what you read strikes you as utter and complete BS, you will not like the book. If he strikes you as a reasonable sort with opinions you might not entirely share, you will find his book challenging. I’ve read it. A flame-throwing table-pounding rant it is not, because he’s a fair and decent man. Even if you disagree with the points of his book, you can agree with this: we all wish that our adversaries were this civil, no?

There you go. Tomorrow: Chuck E. Cheese’s. Pray for me.


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