There’s a chipper old boozehound in knee-high tubesocks, chatting up the package store clerk. No one can pick up the thread of his narrative - it has something to do with Cub Foods, the people upstairs, and liquor. The clerk uh-huhs and nods politely while scanning in the next guy. “Besides, no one likes to drink alone,” the old guy says, then waves to go home and drink alone.

The clerk smiles, and says under his breath: “well, there’s George Thorogood.”

“He drinks alone,” I said.

“With nobody else,” the clerk replied.

“You know when he drinks alone -“

“He prefers to be by himself,” the clerk concluded.

Say what you will about the transitory nature of fame, but when two people can quote your simple lyrics a decade and a half after you growled them into a mike, you’ve achieved something. A lasting place in the heart of the Drinking-American community, perhaps, but a place nonetheless.

Storm rolling in right now – the sky has that uneasy yellow-bruise color that makes everything look ominous and odd. Flowers change color. Nothing has a shadow. I like it; this July has been superb. It’s accomplished the one mission July has: making you so miserably sick of hot weather you yearn for the relief of September. Heard the first cicada today, and this time I knew it was the first. Stopped and smiled: the harbingers of August, drilling through the heavy air. Welcome back. I’d write a newspaper column about it, but A) it would be some banal paen to the theater of seasons (conclusion: holy crap, time is passing!) and B) I’ve done it before.

One of the better days. Not because anything special happened. But everything that happened was fine. I took Gnat to the office. She knows the drill, and says “shhhh” to herself as soon as we enter. After I’d concluded my business we went upstairs for some ice cream in the cafeteria. The building had the dead-calm quiet it always has. Visitors are always surprised to find the newsroom to be inert and somnambulant – people murmuring on the phone, tapping at keyboards, conferring in hushed tones. (You can tell the old-school newspaperpeople: they speak in normal conversational tones.) There is nothing about a modern newspaper office that suggests its inhabitants are assembling a 140 page product that will thump onto several hundred thousand stoops the next day. Yet it happens, day after day: we print a paper. It’s really quite an accomplishment, when you think about it. I just wish we were a little more enthusiastic about it. I miss the old days at the Daily, with the yelling and the running and the smoking and the dashing off to the printing plant to edit the copy on the plates with an Exacto knife; every day felt like an accomplishment, a surprise, a not-unexpected-but-still-quite-welcome miracle. The Strib is a machine. It produces newspapers like a mill produces steel or a brick factory produces bricks, so it’s not surprising that it consistently produces a colorful folded sheaf containing words and pictures. But it’s still no small feat.

A while ago I noted that I had ceased to rely on my paper for international and national news. The web’s competitive advantage is overwhelming. Now I turn straight to the Metro section, because the web can’t yet match the resources and reach of a newspaper. If I were king of the forest, I’d turn the A section into the Metro section. For most papers beside the big swingin’ Johnson dailies, the A section is a lost cause; its lunch has not only been eaten but digested and excreted, and most newspapers think it’s still on the plate with its garnish intact. Newspapers to me no longer look like great sober edifaces inscribing the details of history as the parade clatters past. They just look like group blogs. Without the honest admission of bias. I turn to the daily paper for the stories so elemental that bias has no place - fires, accidents, murders, jabberings of local officials, etc. I say amp up the local coverage, and spare me the edited wire copy about an Israeli incursion into Gaza. For that I'll read the original sources. (After all, I wouldn't trust the Jerusalem Post to accurately cover a double-stabbing in the Minneapolis club district after a rapper was nine hours late taking the stage.) Newspapers have one great strength: proximity. I think they'll realize this eventually. TV covers the world; radio is the new editorial page; the internet is both times ten. The future of newspapers will be intensely local.

Thurlsday. Stupid name but I’m going with it.

A quicktime panorama of the Moon from the first mission to the Moon. It’s pretty cool, but the Holy CRAP meter goes into the red for this one. Apollo 17. The last man on the Moon. It’s maddening: if we’d not only kept going back but figured out a way to stay, can you imagine the video we’d have today? I know I’d keep a window open in the corner displaying a 24/7 feed from the moonbase cargo bay, or the landing pad.

The site has many such panoramas. Note to people who have the widescreen Apple monitors: you are about to enter heaven.

The whole world probably knows about this site, and I’m two years late. Ah well.

My favorite thread of the week, over at Tim Blair’s: hot sauce recollections. How many different ways can you say “my mouth hurt and I blew napalm from my hindquarters”? About 69 times.

The Syrian Band story solved.

Fans of 1950s tabletop radios – and aren’t we all – will enjoy this site. It says it was last updated in 2001, but it has that familiar 1996 look from Ordovician period of the Internet.

I’m not a big fan of this sort of stuff; anyone who’s photographed 87435 times a day will generate a number of pictures that makes them look ridiculous. Then again, judging from the comments in some sites I frequent, “Chimp” is shorthand for Bush because a website posted many photos of him making chimpy expressions. If that’s okay, then so is this. (Good punchline, though.)

I haven’t been following the tale of Chicago’s Millenium Park, but the photos I’ve seen leave me with mixed reactions. There’s a fountain that incorporates a video wall – you see pictures of people spitting out the water, for example. Ew. Then again, I’m not a fan of those ancient fountains that featured rows of urinating cherubim, either. And now that I think of it, vomiting fish and turtles aren’t exactly all that hygienic.

This picture of the bandshell is typical of the sort of modern architecture that bores me dead. More Frank Gehry jiffy-pop whimsy.

Another shot here. Nature, walled off for your convenience! At least we know where they’ll shoot the sequel to “Logan’s Run.”

Beautiful Atrocities introduces you to the panoply of fine North Korean liquors. In this case you do not drink alone, because your entire family was arrested along with you. Note the second item, Totorisul: it’s “Acorn liquor.” That’s for the outer party, probably. The inner party gets Pinecone Armanac.

I have no idea how I found this; one of those lazy endless clickfests through people’s blogs. Proof that if you just click enough you’ll find someone ripping you off. That graphic in the upper-right-hand corner is from the old Gallery of Regrettable Food; it’s the banner for “Knox Gel-Cookery.” Thief.

He said I’d never link to him. So I will, and I’ll give him a line for his quotebar: “Your number one spot for cosmic primate observations from that really weird “nu” domain we only thought DenBeste had.”

Tomorrow: Sandy Berger and the Bridge Over the River Kwai. See you then. Oh: new Fence, if you care. It's local. Very local.


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c. 1995-2004 j. lileks