Daughter wants to start a newspaper. I advised her to come with an online site.

“But how will I charge money? If it’s a newspaper I can charge people money to get a copy.”

Honestly, we had this conversation. She wants to start a newsletter for her classmates about their shared interests, like Warrior Cats and anime about Warrior Cats and stories about Warrior Cats. She had intended to charge 15 cents per copy.

“Your daddy did that,” said my wife.

“You DID?” Pause. “About what?”

Oh, things. Space. Some kids were into baseball, I was into rockets.

But I came up with something the school printed off for me, and they gave me a mimeo sheet too.

“A what?”

An archaic technology that smelled wonderful. It’s one of the scents we no longer know: mimeo fluid. The very term is lovely to say: mimeo fluid. “I printed it off in the school office. But that was a long time ago.”

“Yeah, but no one will pay me for a web page.”

“They will if you password-protect it and sell logins.” (Remembered I had some passwords to send out; felt the usual OMG NO TIME EVERYTHING IS CRUSHING DOWN INTO ONE DENSE BALL OF DREAD THAT SITS ON MY CHEST AND IT HAS EYES, HORRIBLE EYES, HUNDRED OF EYES THAT STARE AND DO NOT BLINK)

“Passwords?” she said, eyes alight. This would make it even cooler. This was great. So this will be our weekend job.

I was amused to read that the New York Times wants to charge $360 for the iPad version of the print edition. Well, of course they do. But at least it’s not as bad as Newsday’s decision to wall everything off unless you’re a subscriber. They also redesigned their site based on the premise that people like a thumb pushed into their eye sockets:
Reminds me of an old line from somewhere, Sandra Bernhardt perhaps: I rely on my personality for birth control. The site is actually marginally better if you inverse the color scheme:

Came home. Napped. No dreams, thank God; last night I dreamed all my dead relatives showed up at my house, one after the other, starting with my uncle. He sat down and said nothing. The standard confusion of the newly dead – reticent, truculent. I started cleaning up the house; my mother told me I should have neatened up before everyone got there. It struck me as uncharacteristic; she wouldn’t say that. But I said I didn’t know. She said I told you we were coming. I felt bad I’d missed the message and worse that I hadn’t called her. My dad was sitting next to her, with his early-photo poker face, looking much younger. I looked back to the living room and saw all my dead relatives, chatting, smoking, carrying on as they always did at Grandma Lileks’ house after church on Sunday. I wanted to apologize to all of them. My Mom spoke: And I think your friend should go.

I was scooping up small paper squares (orange) scattered on the table when the alarm went off.

The mystery isn’t why we think the Romans believed their ancestors observed their actions, it’s why we think they don’t.

Went downstairs, thinking Thursday already, and we’re behind on our piano practice; behind behind behind. It took the morning paper to tell me it was Tuesday, and then I felt depressed. Jasper came downstairs, which was unusual – he usually waits until everyone’s up, and I wake early and leave alone, having said good morning to no one. He gave me a look: breakfast? Well, sure, old friend. Here. Dig in.

Not in a mood to listen to music right away, so I tuned into the XM old radio show channel. Boston Blackie, crap from the old days. I hate Boston Blackie. Parked, slam door, wheetwheeted the alarm, crunch crunch crunch, take care passing the street. Buses just come out of nowhere if you’re not paying attention, and since this headline is a running joke with a friend at the paper, I’d hate to go out that way. Or maybe I would, because there would be one fellow who’d laugh at the funeral. For the right reasons.

Used to have another running joke with the fellow on the other side of the cube who scoured the wires and fine-tuned the front page of the website: “Nothing,” he’d say when I came in, meaning, no big news. “We’ll manage,” I would say. He was fired the other day and so was the sharp sarcastic but ultra-Minnesota-nice lady in the next cubicle down. The fellow with whom I have the running Onion bus-hed joke was moved over to a desk two down from the first one I had, close to the center of the room. When there’s one fire in one can, you move close to warm your hands, I guess. I sat down at my desk, looked across the partition, and noticed that one of them had turned off the TV over their pillar before they left. Seems disrespectful to turn it back on. Someone will.

So, what do you want to do with your life? I believe it was Neidermeyer who asked that question, albeit in a different context. The answer in the video? “I wanna rock.” This is not a sufficient objective. If one wants to attain success and personal satisfaction as a musician in a popular-music ensemble, yes, I suppose it’s a good answer, although it’s more appropriate for “what do you wish to do with your 20s until you are dropped by the record label for disappointing sales for your follow-up, and keep in mind that’s one of the best-case scenarios.” If you want to rock your entire life, well, have at it, but you might as well add “win the lottery while being struck by lightning while answering the phone to find it’s the wrong number and the Pope is calling me and he won the Powerball too, and hold on Benedict, sir, Christina Hendricks at the door ” because it’s just as likely.

If, however you define “rock” to mean living an existence based around the consumption of heavy-metal music, beer, reefer in a series of drab, ill-furnished basement apartments subsidized by a serious of hair-net jobs, then this is not a commendable aspiration. It is not even an aspiration at all; it is a desire to float numb in a shallow stream, with the only notable sensations derived from striking your head on stones as the current bears you along.

Still, it’s a good question. It may be the root of the massive knots in my stomach and thrumming pulse and shadow-on-the-door-of-a-cottage-by-a-dark-Scottish-loch feeling as I drive to work. This could be a delayed mid-life crisis, although I should live so long for this to be mid-life. I was really happy when my mid-life should have hit hard, and now I find I have maneuvered myself into a situation where I have a brain full of bees. Interesting bees, but bees. There’s more, but I’ll spare you.

My daughter wanted me to see her newspaper before she went to bed, so I took a look. She laid it out in Pages.

It’s really good. But there’s one problem.

She uses Hobo as a headline typeface.

As you may know, Hobo is a font that gives me hives. And so we had the same old argument about Hobo.

“DAD It’s just a font.”

“Fonts are never just fonts. Fonts are clothes. Fonts are hats, jewelry, gestures, opening remarks. Fonts are what you show the world first. There’s a reason they’re called type faces.”

“But I like it.”

Well, that’s different. You like it? Do it. God knows it’s no fun when you can’t.


90 Responses to Wednesday, Feb. 17

  1. Sara says:

    When’s the next Bleatplus?

  2. “We need to petition Airwick or Glade or one of those other companies to do a ‘Childhood Memories’ series: Play-doh, mimeo fluid, poster/watercolor paint, etc.”

    How about one for model airplane glue?

  3. LS says:

    Hobo is indeed ugly — it’s got that ’70′s Pizzaria’ look. Then again, if it’s good enough for Jim Treacher…

  4. We had a poor-man’s ditto machine, called a hectograph. It used ditto originals, and the copy mechanism was a slab of gelatin in a tray about 10″ by 12″ by 1/8″. The copies smelled like the real thing, too, only not as strong. It worked kind of like half-duplex Silly Putty.

  5. DensityDuck says:

    Heh. Actually, Dee Snyder is still performing. (In fact, most of the bigger acts from the Eighties are still around, with varying numbers of the original band remaining.)


    @Stjohnsmythe: “…I put the original in upside-down and then couldn’t find a hole punch, then realized the blue lines on the paper didn’t reproduce.”

    I was working on a USAF contract once; they had a formal statement in the contract that blue ink was not to be used on drawings under any circumstances. This was because, as you found out, reproduction machines in the 1960s couldn’t pick up the color blue, and the USAF is nothing if not traditional.


    Hee. I like the “Titan VII” news story. Also, “JOKES: [blank space]” This are Serious Reporter. We make Serious Newspaper.

  6. raf says:

    Notice that in the hamster ad, James used to be a Jim. What trauma made that so distasteful, do you think?

  7. hpoulter says:

    To be honest (why not?) I usually can’t tell what’s so great or so bad about a stinking font. It’s just a font. I realize I’m illiterate. The Hobo font, I read, was designed in 1910 so it is real Art Nouveau. If it resembles all the faux Nouveaux that cluttered up the 1970′s, that’s not its fault.

    To me, nothing says 70s like the Prisoner font – you know, the one used in The Village. OK, font gurus, what was that one called?

  8. hpoulter says:

    Ok to answer my own question – it’s a version of Albertus, specially modified for the show. I thought it was way cool at the time.

  9. Spud says:

    If Miss Natalie’s website-behind-password for filthy lucre project does not work out, there are sites that will host a wiki (i.e. zoho.com) for free. Then she can include her BFF’s and give them passwords to make additions to the website. Otherwise she could always print out a “newspage” on a laser printer – I’m sure you have access to one.

    It’s been over 25 years since I’ve had to worry about going to classes, but I still get the stupid dreams of being in school, worrying about missing classes and not being ready for a test. I think I’d welcome a “party” with dead relatives about now …

  10. Philip Scott Thomas says:

    The Hobo font, I read, was designed in 1910 so it is real Art Nouveau.

    Ahh. I thought so. I wasn’t familiar with Hobo so I googled it up. Something about it suggested Art Nouveau Vienna or Prague or some such. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen book covers, even texts, from the era set in something very similar.

  11. Di says:

    Any dead hamsters at that dead ancestor convention?
    I’m always dreaming of my dead folks and friends, mostly happily, sometimes not so much. Guess some issues never get resolved.

    Maybe the female hamsters cost more because you might possibly get a surprise bonus hamster or two out of her?

  12. Bob says:

    I would absolutely subscribe to The Fargo Informer. That looks great!

    I was into publishing my own stuff when I was a kid too (and I guess I am still am). I also had my own private eye agency when I was around 9 years old. I solved one case: I found my sister’s winter gloves (they had fallen behind the radiator). I had a sign on my bedroom door and everything.

  13. JamesS, You reminded me of something from my college years shortly after “Bozo’s” hit our campus. Someone spray painted “I think we’re all Bozo’s on this bridge” on a pedestrian overpass over U.S. 51.

    madCanada, thanks for that clip if Sting.

  14. kc says:

    I was the “editor” of the school paper in 8th grade. Done by ditto, then hand-colated & stapled at one corner. David Mastel used to end nearly all of his articles, “And a wonderful (happy/terrific/fun) time was had by all.” In my memory, I can still smell that stuff…

  15. Bonnie_ says:

    I, personally, admire this line the most:

    “It is a desire to float numb in a shallow stream, with the only notable sensations derived from striking your head on stones as the current bears you along.”

    And he just tosses these lines off like they are nothing special! Amazing.

  16. Not mimeo fluid — that smell you fondly recall is rexograph fluid. I, too, used to volunteer to run off reams of material for teachers just to get a contact high. Mimeograph involved typing into a waxy, blue sheet that cut out an actual blank spot where the key struck the stencil. Regular ink was then able to blot through onto plain white paper. Rexograph involved a different kind of stencil, in which writing on it caused cakey ink to accumulate on the opposite side. When blank paper and the stencil met with a wick containing the magic fluid, it caused some of the caked on ink to adhere to paper. Rexograph, therefore, was only good for a limited number of copies, until all the caked-on ink dissolved away. Mimeograph, theoretically, could reproduce unlimited numbers of copies.

  17. Jennifer says:

    “brain full of bees” Love that.

    Dee Snider–I once witnessed him berate a receptionist with the classic “do you know who I am?” line. Jerk.

  18. Dr Alice says:

    It’s somehow comforting to know someone else has that “what am I going to do with my life” knot in the stomach. I keep fantasizing about quitting my job and going off to practice medicine in Eastern Europe, or Central Asia or somewhere, but I don’t somehow think it’s gonna happen.

  19. Kevin says:

    Bonnie, I am totally with you on that! The phrase I have come up with to describe our host’s ability with words is ‘casual brilliance.’ It stuns me how effortlessly he can come up with these absolutely magnificent distillations of all kinds of things.
    Mr. Lileks, you and your family are a huge blessing to many people!!

  20. Petronius says:

    I read the other day about a British jouro who won a bet with the most boring headline that would get past an editor: “Small Earthquake in Peru; Not Many Die”.

  21. Doug says:

    Isn’t it actually a ditto machine or spirit duplicator, instead of a mimeograph?

  22. John Smallberries says:

    Mimeo fluid smells so good it sometimes makes you forget how to spell “Apollo.”

  23. bgbear says:

    OK power out because a small plane w/three folks working for Tesla Motors plunged into n East Palo Alto neighborhood. Luckily no one killed on the ground.

    I went home.

  24. hpoulter says:

    Wow. Our power goes out because of fallen trees and ice on the lines. Sorry about the crash victims, but glad they didn’t land on the populace.

  25. Chaka says:

    And THAT, my friends, is how you write a Bleat. Well done, James.

  26. hpoulter says:

    No kidding. The guy was a funny writer when he was 9 or 10. Now he is a writer who shrugs off beautifully crafted phrases. I hope I live long enough to see Natalie Lileks’ professional work. I’m saving space on my bookshelf.

    Real writers write. Lileks has spent his whole life writing. When he was a kid, and later when he was an adolescent and a college student, he wrote every day – I’ll bet he has a pad and a good pen on him at all times. Constant writing, coupled with constant reading, and a generous measure of native talent, make a good writer. None of those would succeed without the others.

    Bravo, James – brava, Natalie. Writers enrich the world.

  27. Jennifer CSU says:

    I want my life to rock. I want it to be vibrant and exciting and hectic with the occaisonal “ballad” for R & R. Also, I want to win Power Ball AND have the Pope pocket dial me.

  28. RickRick says:

    I LOVE Hobo!

  29. Di says:

    Fargo Informer is perfect on many MANY levels :)
    And ditto was not my friend in my early office worker days – the purple stuff somehow flew through the air and landed on my underwear…how…?

  30. cgm says:

    I think the Fargo Informer is totally awesome. I mean that. I would definitely have paid 10 cents for it.

  31. Bob says:

    “I was really happy when my mid-life should have hit hard, and now I find I have maneuvered myself into a situation where I have a brain full of bees.”

    Gahhh. Precisely. The bees are loudest at about 4am.

  32. Grebmar says:

    I also like Hobo. Its just not for everything.

  33. NeeNee says:

    Remember the smell of school paste??
    Some of us brought our own “Lepage” glue
    in the clear glass bottle with slanted
    rubber applicator.

    Forty years later, I’m cleaning
    the bathroom and wondering why the
    crystal Sani-Flush smells so familiar.

    Both hubby and I finally figured out
    it’s quite similar to school paste.
    Anybody else out there ever notice this?

    By the way, I’ve noticed that at the grocery
    store these days, crystal bathroom bowl
    cleaners like Vanish & Sani-Flush no longer
    fill the shelves in the cleaning section.
    It’s all gels & liquids that don’t do squat.

  34. raf says:

    Maybe Natalie can do Bleatplus….

  35. browniejr says:

    “So turn on, tune in, and drop dead ’cause it’s 1969: the moon year.” (!!!) The reference to the Titan blowing up in 1966 intrigued me, so I found this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJHtkjjwoeg&feature=related

  36. browniejr says:

    “Titan 1966″ as a search string also revealed this campy Hulk cartoon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AVpwxtK64M

  37. Kev says:

    Reminds me of an old line from somewhere, Sandra Bernhardt perhaps: I rely on my personality for birth control.

    Heh. We musicians use that same joke at the expense of violists. ;-)

  38. marjorie j birch says:

    Tell Natalie I just saw Hobo used as the headline for a Swine Flu poster.

    when pigs fly — swine flew?

  39. Di says:

    I love LOVE the smell of crayons. Of course, that’s not a lost smell. I have no kids in my life at present, but I still occasionally pop open the crayon box at store and take a few deep sniffs. mmmmm

  40. zefal says:

    Can anyone make out what’s in parenthesis after “keep it under lock & key”?

    If you said the first three….

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