You know what I want? An iPod that plays video. I won’t get one. Steve doesn’t want me to have one, because he seems to believe that there’s no use for it. Well, let me tell you, barefoot boy with chic: I’d use it to . . .

Uh –

I’d sit in cafes and watch TV! Yes I would!

No, I wouldn’t. I’d be ashamed to sit in public places and gape at a tiny screen. People would inevitably crane their heads, look at what I was watching, and form snap judgments that would be both cruel and entirely accurate. You aren’t what you watch, but what you watch says much about what you are, like it or not. (It’s not entirely accurate, though; the other night I watched “The Four Feathers,” a movie about a British soldier who resigns his commission, is branded an utter puss-wuss by his friends and fiancé, and who redeems himself by delivering the emblem of his cowardice – the white feather – to those who sent him the damning symbol. This means he has to travel to the Sudan, where the British army is conducting one of its periodic experiments to determine exactly how stupid it is to wear hot red coats in a monochromatic desert. Heat stroke? I say, rather. Check. Easy target? Deucedly so, damn your eyes; check. Doesn’t show the blood, making triage difficult in the hellish scrum of combat? Rather. Check.

The movie begins as all such modern accounts of Imperial Folly must: with the gallant dashing men dancing on a parquet floor with the pallid lasses of Albion, the very symbol of pride and tradition and imperial confidence. Any movie that begins thus is destined to end with the boys yowling uncomprehendingly in slo-mo death scenes set in a sandy locale. The battle scene in the Sudan was rather stirring – it’s no “Zulu,” but nothing is nowadays, so you take what you get. What’s interesting was the lack of context. The movie was greenlighted sometime after 9/11, I imagine. It concerned the war between the Brits and the Mahdi army, a proto-Islamist faction whose name would be resurrected in Fallujah many decades later. It’s one of those creepy little facts that makes you realize this war has been going on far longer than we know. “The Four Feathers” leaves the Sudan after the main battle and follows our hero home to confront his old love and his comrade whose life he saved in the sand. And there it ends, I think. It was late, and I was tired of sand. I do know that the credits rolled without telling the whole story. So: someone comes up with a film about the Brits marching into the Sudan to fight an Islamic army in the 19th century. How do we play this, exactly?

You can imagine the studio exec’s response: emphasize the love story and the futility of war. “Platoon” in the desert, that’s the pitch. Ixnay on the Uslimay stuff.

In the end, the Brits won, and the repercussions are still felt today. You could almost view the 20th century as a little diversion when we amused ourselves with fascism and communism before getting back to the old Clash O’ Civilizations; in this sense the backstory of “The Four Feathers” is rather pertinent, but you wouldn’t know it from the movie. It’s like Warner Brothers making a movie in 1942 set in the Prussian wars that studiously ignored parallels to modern events.

“Troy,” “King Arthur,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Four Feathers,” and all the rest: we’re in the Golden Era of beating around the bush.) So maybe a portable video player isn’t what I want. Hell, I’d be ashamed to watch TV in public. It’s onanism. Me no read me lookie purty thing.

Did I mention that Tuesday bleats are RIGHT OUT, and it’s now all about the weekly update because Monday is a two-column day? No? Well, that’s how it is. Got up after six hours of thin sleep, drove mom-in-law to catch a bus, spent the morning with Gnat and most of the afternoon; took her to ballerina class, went home, tried to nap and was interrupted by some daft free-lance leaf blower, a door-to-door surveyor, a most welcome phone call setting up a future lunch. Gave up. Retrieved child, hit the grocery store, made supper, did the Hugh show, fobbed off child on wife, then banged out two (2) columns. Now I am here at the kitchen table rambling on, wondering whether this counts as a sufficient daily update, and whether I should save the weekly update for later . . .

Nah. When I was a young boy I inhaled Tom Swift books. They concerned the adventures of sexless boy genius Tom and his dependable chum Bud, as well as ancillary females who might be dated, theoretically, for the abstract purpose of advancing the species; there was also a Slim-Pickins Texas sidekick who handled the grub, and a brace of shadowy adversaries who managed to strike Tom and Bud on the head with a blunt object in every book. Horatio Alger for the New Frontier generation. I loved them. A two-part Jetsam Cove feature devoted to the cover art begins today. I had little time to edit this for clarity or amusement, so beware. I’m busy. This is rough. And I’m dealing with a million letters informing me of the difference between a duvet and duvet cover. Such is life. See you tomorrow.


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c. 1995-2004 j. lileks