After the interview with the former Secretary of Defense I went to the grocery store to get something for two, not three. Wife’s out for the night, no dinner. In the pizza aisle:

When you go that far out of your way to misspell wings, people will assume there’s absolutely no chicken involved whatsoever.

Once upon a time, wife’s Bunco on Thursday meant Chuck E. Cheese’s for me and the child, with all the attendant joys: flat soggy bad pizza, other people’s kids, those jerky dead-eyed animatronic creatures on stage, a loud birthday party with sobs and tantrums and wails of entitlement and frustration, twenty bucks’ worth of tokens fed into machines that yielded a minute’s entertainment – if that – and concluded the exchange by sticking out their tongue in the form of a strip of tickets, exchanged later for cheap plastic goods forgotten before we got home.

But. There was a brief sweet spot. The pizza got slightly better. They got a pinball machine. The old Skee-ball lanes hadn’t been replaced by the new ones made of titanium and anti-gravity paint, which made it impossible to sink a ball. There were some “virtual reality” rides we could take together. We had fun. But one day we walked out and that was the last time. You never know it at the time, of course. You never do.

Thursday night was a Bunco night, and we stayed in. Ordinary night. What else did we do after Bunco in the early years of Chuck E? Right: come home, watch a video – Kipper, if I recall, was popular – then bath and bed, everything a little different because Mommy was gone.

That was then. Tonight? I was researching something for work. For my job. As a newspaperman! A journalist! In this case, the similarities between Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” Hey: stock the website. That’s part of my job. It’s a furnace. Feed it. Anyway, I’m playing the video, which is ugly and gooey, and I hear something from down the hall:


IT’S MY JOB, I said.



She came in my room a minute later, and said, and I quote, “Seriously, Dad? Lady Gaga?”

She doesn’t listen to this stuff, but she picks it up. It’s in the air: a few summer ago when we saw the colossally disappointing “Percy Jackson” movie, there was a scene in a casino that used “Pokerface” as the soundtrack, and I remember her saying “Of course.” Poker, casino. She was nine. I had no such savvy at that age, but she’s ahead of where I was. Last night she printed off her NOVEL, because everyone was supposed to bring a story they’d penned to school. She printed the cover she designed, and we put it in a plastic envelope like a proper manuscript, and she was just dancing with delight over seeing it look like a real thing. It’s interesting: for a computer-centric kid, she has an attachment to tangible work. I know I should be making her do math more, but when I see her curled up with a sketchpad, I backpedal out of the room.

She’s also decided she doesn’t want a birthday party this year. No more throngs of friends with their calamitous din. She said she might want a party with just a few friends, but that would make the ones she didn’t invite feel left out. That’s very mature, I said. She bowed and said “why thank you” with sarcastic politeness. Every kid hits that point, no? Enough. One year we had a sleepover – ten girls, I think. Oy. Guaranteed no sleep, some tears, everyone owly in the AM, slumpy and surly when picked up. One year: Disney-princess-themed rental bouncy in the back yard. (Yes, “Rental Bouncy” sounds like an English term for a hooker.) Ten girls, ten concussions. Dead grass. One year, a magician. Last year, the Humane Society – no gifts, just contributions to the animal shelter, cake, playtime with a pliant kitten. Looks like that was the end of it.

It’s always the end of something; the trick is to keep your eyes open so you see the start of something else.

iPhone app photo filter update: I’ve been playing with something called “Plastic Bullet,” which reproduces the look of cheap children’s cameras. So it says. I have no idea what cheap children’s cameras look like. But I like the results. Sad tree is sad:

Also have HalfTone, an app which simulates old comic books. Here’s Dale, the guy from Target I interviewed for Sunday’s paper:

One remarkable guy. Raised on a farm, sent to boarding schools because they couldn’t accommodate a kid with cerebral palsy, went to VoTech for retail management in the cities far from home, 24 years at Target with steady promotions. He’s a good man and I’m glad I know him.

Well, not much today in the way of updates; a 50s scifi – these are horrible – and a Diner about 1920s / 30s Titanic-themed folk music. Really. Here or Here. As noted in the Diner, I received an honor today: best columnist in town! Hey now! At least according to City Pages, the free weekly. My colleague Jon Tevlin was the editors’ choice for the award; I was the PEOPLE’S CHOICE. My wife looked through the mag, and I said “don’t tell me if they’re snarky about it.” She came up to my studio later and said “They didn’t say anything. There was a paragraph about the editor’s choice, and then below in small letters it said ‘Reader’s Choice: James Lileks.’” Which made me laugh out loud, because I knew that if it was reversed I’d be feeling just as proud.

So: that was a day. New column at – clean new site, eh? Scroll down for my smiling outdated face – and the accurate PopCrush link be here. Have a grand weekend!


83 Responses to The People’s Choice

  1. gottacook says:

    With regard to the City Pages readers’ poll, perhaps those readers are affectionately remembering the good old days when our host was CP’s own featured columnist (mid-1980s), irrespective of his current politics.

    One can separate these things out without betraying one’s own ideals. I regard our host in much the same way Philip K. Dick felt about Robert Heinlein (from intro to The Golden Man story collection, 1980): “even though our political ideologies are totally at variance,” he considers Heinlein “one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don’t agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there.”

  2. Glenn says:

    “Yes, “Rental Bouncy” sounds like an English term for a hooker.”

    If I drank coffee, it would have soiled my keyboard when I read that. LOL!

  3. CaliforniaJeff says:

    bgbear said:Must have been one of those logical leaps like claiming that doing an interview equals wholehearted endorsement.

    This is such an obvious, basic truth that only something as strong as fervid idealogical blindness can obscure it.

    There are plenty of places I can go to get my blood pressure up over things political: here, I want Target, and Jasperwood, bittersweet parenting musings, and wry social commentary. Surely James is the antidote for Garrison Keeler. Knowing that something like that exists in the Universe is one of the grand comforts of my existence.

    Off to listen to the latest Diner…

  4. CaliforniaJeff says:

    Sorry: it’s spelled ideological, of course.

  5. yet somehow “idealogical” sounds like a real and useful word


  6. swschrad says:

    it’s not Wobblies /vs/ Nazis, it’s PC /vs/ Mac

    having a PC, a mac, and a couple of Linux boxen in the house, and a PC and a SunBlade at work, I officially as referee declare snarking season open.

  7. hpoulter says:

    Then, there’s idiotlogical, which is even more useful, though no more real.

  8. Ah the Wobblies. Workers of the World Untie! Oh er, wait I meant unite!

  9. DryOwlTacos says:

    I had few birthday parties when I was young because mine is in January and at the time the family lived where there is paralyzing snow. I always wished for a summer birthday so that I could take my friends to the swimming pool for a party. When I became an adult, I declared the day in July six months after my actual birthday to be my Half Birthday and that is when it would be observed. Wish my parents had been clever enough to do this for me; glad Natalie has clever, hip parents.

  10. I don’t know swschrad, I look more like PC dude and dress more like Mac dude. At home we use Macs for the creative stuff and have a couple of PC netbooks for knock-about, web, and mail. I also have a PC running security cameras. At work I am on a PC, my wife at work gets to use Macs.

    I am confused, am I hip or square?

    I think I am “squip”.

  11. wiredog says:

    I have an iMac, running various Windows and Linux in VMWare virtual machines.

    @bgbear (roger h)
    Don’t you remember? It’s hip to be square.

  12. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – lady gaga reminds me of the what a writer in the late 1950s/early 1960s would think were good pop group names for a degenerated dystopian future ala clockwork orange…

  13. RexV says:

    Roald Dahl wrote a chilling short story, published in 1960, about a beekeeper who feeds his sickly baby daughter Royal Jelly in order to aid in her growth and development.

    Hilarity ensues.

  14. Bob Lipton says:

    Snerk. So the editors all hate that they have to run your stuff.


  15. Kurt says:

    Actually, “Born This Way” steals from last year’s “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn, the Swedish pop singer. Both are fun songs; I don’t discount either.

  16. bgbear (roger h) says:
    April 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I am confused, am I hip or square?

    I think I am “squip”.

    They wrote a song about that…

  17. @juanito & wiredog, I should have thought of that. I need a new drug.

  18. swschrad says:

    @Mark E Hurling: I think that’s “Dyslexics of the world, UNTIE!”

    if I had a more modern Mac, an Intel Mac, and assuming I would simulcast Windows on it, the Windows screensaver would be the BSOD screensaver. I periodically enable it on the work machine when I’m scheduled to have a tech visit… ;)

  19. browniejr says:

    @John Robinson: “What, no torture?!?”
    –the video above shows how the Wobblies would go about getting information. Bonus points:
    1. It’s over 40 years old, yet still relevant;
    2. It’s funny (Don Addams);
    3. Uncle Leo from Seinfeld.

  20. Linda Vernon says:

    @swschrad — you had me at Lynda

  21. GardenStater says:

    @hpoulter: I second bgbear’s comment re: the cars in period movies. I drive a ’99 Jeep Wrangler, and GardenWifey drives a 2000 Explorer. Funny how you watch these films and everybody’s not only got the latest model, but nobody’s been in a fender-bender.

  22. bgbear (roger h) says:
    April 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    @juanito & wiredog, I should have thought of that. I need a new drug.

    Sir, you are Walking On A Thin Line.

  23. MikeHu says:

    Wow, a living elm tree. Neat.

  24. Juanito, I guess This is it*

    *we have at home the pelican plush toy Huey Lewis “won” at the clown toss game in the video

  25. hpoulter says:

    “I’m sorry fellas. I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud. Next, please”

  26. bgbear (roger h) says:
    April 22, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Juanito, I guess This is it*

    *we have at home the pelican plush toy Huey Lewis “won” at the clown toss game in the video

    Nor-Cal Salute to you, kind sir!

    hpoulter says:
    April 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    “I’m sorry fellas. I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud. Next, please”

    No joke – my then 5 year old daughter said those words to me as we watched my friend Jeff Waston and Night Ranger in concert on Capitol Mall in Sacramento back in 2006. She repeated this to me when I was presented with a new amp on Father’s Day 2 years ago: Plugged in, dialed up the compression and reverb, hit an E chord and she left the garage shaking her head.

  27. Pencilpal says:

    Dale from Target sounds like someone who should truly be immortalized as a superhero in a comic book – you wonder if Superman would have had his determination.
    Maybe that app should be called Moire instead of HalfTone? The tree photo is lovely, I think that one should be called Pinhole Camera.

  28. Stjohnsmythe says:

    With this Diner, you’ve confirmed my desire to not live in Appalachia.

    That Dr. Pepper jingle had PAMS written all over it, excellent find!

  29. Irish Al says:

    England has had some entertaining vernacular for prostitutes over the years. They were known as ‘punchable nuns’ in the 18th century.

  30. Linda Vernon says:

    Irish Al: Punchable nuns is just endearing! Who knew they could be so funny in the 1800′s!

    I’m actually leaving this comment on Saturday. I guess I’m just missing you all –which is so lame, but in a good way.

  31. @swschrad – now you just need a matching kernel panic screen saver for the Mac side.

    (No MacIntels yet around this house – two PCs, a passel of G3s & G4s, and a perfectly functional MacTV.

  32. Mpls Mike says:

    @hpoulter says: April 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm
    “Then, there’s idiotlogical”

    Yes, I meet them all the time, and I must say that’s a very significant term. Thanks for the addition

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!