The neighborhood gas station has a great scam: they sell you a wash with your fill-up, and it’s good for seven days. This means you put the receipt aside and lose it, or forget. You rarely get the wash when you fill, because there are always seven cars in line, and they are all getting the 30-pass Super Gold Blast-O-Rama Platinum Wash with Undersoak, Sidesoak, Top-foam, Sparkle Wax and Furious Vornado Turbo-Dri. Well, my wife bought a ticket for a wash a week ago, and it was set to expire tonight, so I went to the gas station. The line, of course, was seven cars long. So I decided to go run some errands, thinking that everyone who needed to wash their car would be finished by the time I came back.

Went to the computer store to return a USB-SCSI adapter. I’d intended to hook up the old scanner to the new computer. No such luck. First of all, I bought the scanner in the ancient era of floppy disks, so installing the drivers meant I had to hook up a floppy drive, or get new drivers off the net. Well! I’m a modern fellow; must have modern drivers. Got them off the HP web site. Unstuffed them, and noticed they were the same drivers I had three years ago. Well. They refused to recognize the scanner, so back I went to the store. They wanted to charge me a 15% open package fee. I explained to them that they should not. Everything was perfect. It wasn’t even shrink-wrapped when I bought it. The clerk shrugged, said whatever. Well, that was easy. Did I want another cable? No, I did not, since the product, as I explained, does not work with my computer. I said I’ll take store credit. The clerk said I had to spend the money TODAY. Why? Store policy. Okay, whatever.

Since there was nothing I wanted in the software department, I bought some DVDs. It’s a peculiar world: the computer store sells movies, the electronics store sells computer software. Hung out in the Mac department and answered questions. I do this every time I go to the computer store - there’s always someone who has a question, and the staff usually doesn’t know or care about Macs, so I do my best. Helped a woman whose Mac made a strange hum. (My sage advice: it’s probably broken.) Convinced a new iMac buyer to get a different mouse. All the while, I’m thinking: those cars should all be clean by now.

Back to the gas station. Seven cars. Oh, well. Waited for more than half an hour; finally got in, and it was a wonderful sight: driving into the dark, steam-cloaked bay felt strange and mysterious, like piloting a craft into the shuttle bay of an abandoned spaceship. The machine started up. I looked at the readout to see how many passes the apparatus would make. Ten. My wife had bought the top-of-the-line package. I wanted to get out and apologize to the people behind me.

But of course there was no one behind me. In the 35 minutes I waited, not a single car came behind me.

Cold weekend. Cold. Frickin’ freezing. Dog walks are short affairs now, and halfway through Jasper holds up a pathetic paw. The house is cold and the car is cold and everything is cold, bright, hard and vacant. The snow feels like fresh styrofoam; breathing the air feels like you’re inhaling needles.

So we spent the weekend staying warm. Watched “Vertigo,” which I hadn’t seen in a long time, not since its theatrical re-release. What a peculiar film - it just wanders, andwanders, and mopes, and goes absolutely nuts. There’s no real mystery of any sort, at least none that seems to warrant the intensity of the visuals. It’s sad and desperate and miserably unhinged in a desperate, middle-aged sort of way. I love it. I prefer “Rear Window,” which has been restored (like Vertigo) and is due out on DVD this fall, but “Vertigo” is just so damn peculiar you can’t help but be fascinated. And the street scenes contain acres of shots of 50s San Francisco; I kept pausing the picture to look at the cars, the storefronts, the people. A world of metal and glass and strange fabrics, all draped in colors we don’t seem to need anymore.

Back to work; Monday awaits. Prediction: cold.


I liberated a few old photos from the newspaper library for an upcoming web project. Chose a fellow who had been dead for 30 years, and had a few sparse mentions in the early 30s. Figured I'd be safe using his image for fictional purposes, especially since I planned to distort it beyond recognition. Just needed a head and a suit, really. The past is my palette! History is but mere rough clay for the kilm of my genius.

Also, he was dead, and wouldn't sue.

Later I looked at the back of the photos, and learned that this fellow - Howard Scott - was the founder of something called Technocracy. Such was the name, coined in the 20s, for a radical centralization of economic power into the hands of, well, technocrats. Utopia was promised, of course. They did a lot of that, back then; it would amuse them to know that many moderns look back on their own era and see a sort of Utopia. (Not me - I'd love to visit the 20s, even have a permanent apartment there, but I wouldn't want to live there forever. ) The guy was about nine feet tall, craggy, with a look of bemused tolerance for lesser, shorter mortals. Right out of an Ayn Rand book, I thought, although she probably would have disagreed with much of his program. There were three pictures: one of Howard Scott in Minneapolis on tour, one tense shot in a hallway after a meeting where Technocracy suffered a leadership schism, (meaningless, powerless groups are always have leadership schisms) and a postwar photo of Scott looking tired, impatient and contemptuous. He had the answers! And no one listened! Fools!

(Geek note: He wore a light khaki shirt with a light brown jacket and a dark brown tie. “That’s John Gill!” I said, in my best Kirk voice. Death to Zayons!)

Back at my desk, I decided to see if there was anything on the web about this fellow. Plugged in the name, added “technocracy.”

The first hit: www.technocracy.org.

Why was I surprised? Well, off I went, and discovered some of the oddest, most utterly boring web pages I’ve ever read. The famous Hotel Pierre Speech by the great man himself began with one of the most incomprehensible sentences in political theory, and sounded as though it was transcribed by an illiterate: it refers to “the missed of history,” and I think they mean “mists.” If the error has persisted for 80 years, it does not speak well of the brainiacs behind this movement. But yea, it still exists, in its own odd way. There’s even a newsletter. Click on the last four issues, and you can’t help but notice that every single article was written by the same guy.

And that’s about it for today. I went to the office, and couldn’t produce a word. Nothing was due, so nothing was done. Oh, I wrote some stuff eventually, but inspiration eludes nearly every sentence, and I’ll probably rip it all up tomorrow. Tonight I have the Newhouse column to do, and it’s coming along briskly. It’s on Internet voting, which I think is a fine thing. Not Internet initiative and referendum, which would be bad; it would be like an Amazon 1-click button, a little too tempting.

One more note on Vertigo - the DVD, bless it, had the extra ending Hitchcock shot for European audiences. It’s amazing. Not a word of dialogue. Barbara Bel Geddes is listening to a radio story about the imminent apprehension of the husband - she has one of those Gilligan’s Island radios that only broadcasts plot points - and Jimmy Stewart enters her apartment. He goes to the window. She gives him a big, big drink. The end. It’s as strange and sad as the rest of the movie. But I can just make two points? Kim Novak doesn’t do a damn thing for me. It’s not that I don’t like the cool ice-blonde bit; I do. But she just looks peculiar to me, like something assembled out of spare parts. Two: the entire movie would be a shapeless mess without the score.W You hear the main theme perhaps twenty times before the scene where Novak has transformed back into Madeline - and when you hear it again it’s as if you’d never heard it before. and my GOD does Herrman pour it on. This gives me the inspiration for a radio show I'd like to do, but more about that later.

Enough. Tonight it’s “Goldfinger.” Provided I finish all my work.


Had lunch today at a Vietnamese restaurant. The directions were simple -it’s around Nicollet and 24th or so. I figured, no problem; I know the area, I’ll find it in a trice. Well. I hadn’t been to that neighborhood in a while, and was astonished to find out it has become almost entirely Asian. My mental picture of the place dates from the mid 80s, when it had a Greek restaurant, a German restaurant, and a bar that had “peanuts” and “chili” in its name. Now nearly every store front writhed with Asian script; every door led to a noodle shop, an Oriental grocery, a Vietnamese cafe. It was a scene from “Blade Runner,” with snow. The English signs had that peculiar characteristic of Asian stores with Anglo signage - the words look blank and unblinking and not entirely welcoming. WANG HO LTD. They’re always sans-serif, blocky, big, matter-of-fact. There’s usually a dragon somewhere, and someone has always called their store “lucky” in a fit of optimism.

Since there were about 100 new restaurants, finding the right one was a challenge. It was called “Pho 70,” which sounds like a military coordinate from the war. Eventually I located the place; it was like every other --

holy cow, Jasper is going nuts; better check.

Just Raina dog from down the street. Should have known; you can set your clock to the 10:15 barkfest when Raina gets walked.

Anyway - it was every other Asian restaurant I’ve ever been to - cheap, sparsely decorated with a few gaudy geegaws - tasseled globes hanging from the ceiling, gimcrack religious statuary. I always wonder if these are the Asian equivalents of velvet paintings and 3D pictures of Jesus. The food was unfamiliar; everything was served in a bowl, nearly all the entrees were soups. There was a list of items under the heading “broken rice,” which seems a rather labor-intensive food. I ordered busted-up rice with grilled ground pork, and was served something that bore a suspicious resemblance to Spam. It was . . . incredible. I love Vietnamese food, but I’d never had this stuff before.

Later this evening I saw an ad in the local paper for another Vietnamese restaurant, one of the first in town. They’ve had the same ad for 20 years - a blurry picture of the owner (looks like a photocopy of a newspaper picture) with the motto “I didn’t come 9,000 miles to cook you bad food.” No, I used to think, you came 9,000 miles to escape a murderous totalitarian regime. You’re allowed to serve me bad food. Back then, we had ten Vietnamese restaurants, and regarded this as a sign that Minneapolis was no longer a cultural backwater. Now we have more per block than we had in the entire city.

If one had a time machine, it would be interesting to snatch a citizen from that intersection circa in 1920, and drop them in the present, and watch them clutch their chest in shock. Was there a war? There must have been a war with the Chinamen! They won! Are the churches closed? Are we all forced to be Hindoo? Saints preserve.

Seventy years from now, who knows? I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine another wave of immigrants knocking the Vietnamese out. I wonder if there’s ever been an area that was predominately Asian that became something else. Little Italy is no longer primarily Italian; old Slav neighborhoods around the country are now Asian, Somali, Dominican. It’s difficult to imagine the next wave. Perhaps we’ll make contact with a galactic federation, and in 70 years the street will be mostly Klingon, or some equivalent variant. “I can’t believe it,” people would say. “This neighborhood used to be completely Terran. Now it’s all Centaurian.”

Cold day; seventeen below tonight. It was zero when I walked Jasper, and I regretted not wearing a hat. But Isurvived. I inherited my dad’s imperviousness to cold - oh, I know when it’s cold, but it doesn’t plague me the way it does some. I wore street shoes with dress socks on the walk, since I hadn’t changed from work. Hell, 15 minutes in zero isn’t going to kill you if you’re tough. And, apparently, I’m tough. The dog does his business quickly, though, and I don’t blame him; if the bathroom at home was paved with ice, and I could only enter it barefoot, I’d bring brisk alacrity to the job as well.

Working on the postcards site tonight, assembling the World’s Fair stuff. A boring night of duty. Tomorrow is play. In fact, tonight should be play as well, now that I think about it. No reason I can’t power up the keyboards and bang out some music. And so I will.


I’m playing a computer game in which my character is a Nazi. But a good Nazi! Maybe. It’s called “Mortyr,” and it had trouble finding a distributor. Wonder why. The original box art showed a Nazi helmet with a bullet hole, and a trickle of blood. Then came that unpleasant business at Columbine, and the game fell into a black hole; stores refused to stock it. Interplay published it a month ago, and since I needed a new game to review, I got it. The plot: Nazis won WW2 thanks to some ingenious weaponry developed at the war’s end. Turns out they built a time machine, and swiped armaments from the future. A hundred years later, the weather is horrible over Berlin, and scientists have deduced that the time machine is to blame, so they send someone back to kill the machine’s inventor. That’s your character.
Yes, you get the chance to undo the Nazi victory, because unless you do so, it’ll be unseasonably cold in the future.
Bad weather is an insufficient motivation, in my opinion. I’d like to be an Allied soldier sent back to put a bullet in old Adolf before he really got revved up. Or just strangle him in the cradle to cover all bets. There’s a boss level: a gigantic robotic Hitler who can take 40 rockets before collapsing. (And then, a la Quake 2, Goering pops out of his belly and keeps shooting.)
I’ll give the game this: it’s gorgeous. There are some cathedrals that are just jaw-dropping - the soaring vaults are perfectly reflected in the marble floor, light carves out shafts in the swirling dust. Lovely. But I’m still a Nazi.
Here’s the punchline: the game was developed in POLAND.
Note to developers: ask Dad or Gramps for advice next time you choose a story line.

I suck. That’s the general verdict after an hour fiddling with this 4-track recorder a friend let me use. I just suck. I started recording some of my own compositions, such as they are, and suffered extreme stumble-fingeredness. I also managed to forget the changes every - fargin’ - time, so I had to start, and start again, and start again again, until I finally just unplugged everything and went downstairs for a beer. If I’d kept at it another hour, I have no doubt I would have turned in a Hendrix-like performance, which is to say I would have doused my instrument with lighter fluid and set it afire.

It’s still cold. That’s about all I have to report for the day. And the week. All the things I intended to do this wifeless week have not come to pass; I’ve made no progress on any of the great projects. The main difference between life with wife and a wifeless week is, as expected, the fact that I can play the evening movie at full volume instead of using the headphones. And I haven’t even installed the optical cord I was going to use to enhance my digital experience. I was going to finish the basement. (A moment of silent, contemptuous laughter.) Last night I filled a big box with many smaller cardboard boxes, intending to leave it for the trash. But then I realized that I couldn’t get it out the back porch door, which is partly snowed in. Well, screw that; wait for spring. Let’s watch TV.

Watched a little Goldfinger - you know him; he’s the man with the golden touch. Such a cold finger, though.

Not the best lyrics, really, although you couldn’t posit that he had a bold finger - salacious as the notion may have been, we are talking about Gert Frobe, after all. Such a mold finger - well, use that nail-anti-fungal salve, pal. Anyway. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, and was astonished to see it rip off “True Lies” in the opening scene. (Note to the dim: I’m not serious.) I was pleased to see Bond smoking everywhere he could possibly smoke, and was reminded of Timothy Dalton’s choice of nails: Larks. Poor man. (I liked Dalton’s Bond, much more than poultry-chested Brosnan; Dalton had the necessary cruel streak.) The movie is astonishingly sexist. I mean, breathtakingly stupid in spots. I don’t criticize it for that aspect, any more than I would reel back in horror upon learning that blackface was a staple of 20s vaudeville. But it’s always instructive to see what is no longer possible, or permissible. A good thing? Yes. While Bond should smoke and drink, as often as possible, we are none the lesser if Bond does not slap his masseuse on the ass and send her away because he and his friend have to do some “man talk.”

There’s one highly amusing moment in which Felix Leiter (you know, in a parallel universe, newspapers write big long features on who’s going to play the New Felix Leiter in the next CIA agent 12-X movie. Here on earth, they can plug a different actor in the role in every movie, and no one knows or cares) is walking through a Miami Beach hotel,and women stare approvingly as he passes. Their eyes follow him - why, there’s a man who lives a life of danger. For heaven’s sake, Leiter looks like the head of the United Brotherhood of Shoe Store Clerks.

Old finger. He’s the man, the man with the palsied shake / like an earth quake

Well, back to the basement; I have to paint the floor tonight before I can watch the movie.

Oops! Forget to buy the paint. Well, back to Bond, then. At least I tried.


The week always seems to end on Thursday nights for me; don’t know why. I know better. There’s always Friday. Perhaps it goes back to the old Daily days, when we put the last issue of the paper to bed on Thursday night, and retired to a bar to drink ourselves into a cantankerous stupor. TNC, it was called; Thursday Night Club. When I first joined the Daily, TNC was held at Jimmy Hegg’s, a luxuriously upholstered bar in downtown Minneapolis. I felt small and juvenile and out of place, what with all these seasoned journalists, hard-bitten reporters and ever-so-swank surroundings. Then they all drifted off into the real world, and I became part of the paper’s core group. One night a few years later I realized I was one of the elders, and was about a year away from being a pathetic hanger-on. Naturally, I stayed another year. But I didn’t enjoy it.

Went to work, wrote a column. And there you have it: today. Came home, napped for exactly seven minutes. The phone rang, and as I snapped awake I realized: well, that’s all the nap I need, I guess. Probably didn’t even need that. An indulgence. The phone was for my wife; it was the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, asking for money. Seems to me they have enough. I declined on her behalf. They’d called yesterday as well, and I’d told them that she gave her money to the law school, and they shouldn’t bother calling again. So of course they did. Last night I also got a call asking for my wife; it was the Guthrie theater. I hoped they were going to apologize for that wretched Richard III we saw, but no: they wanted money. I told them that I would pass along the message, and they needn’t call again. So of course they called again tonight. Such is the extent of my human interaction this evening. I tell you, my wife can’t come home soon enough. If only so I can hand the phone to her and say “it’s for you.”

Finished watching “Goldfinger” last night, and even watched all the little documentaries on the DVD. There’s about 40 of them. It included a little TV feature from 1964, notable mostly for the voiceover; for anyone who grew up in the 60s and 70s, the voice is instantly recognizable. It’s utterly unremarkable, but it was ubiquitous back then, and can be heard on about half the retromercials on TVLand. There was an interview with Honor Blackman, who must be pushing 70, or even pulling it behind her; still one hell of a dish. Although her character - Poossy, as Connery pronounced it - was a rather odd woman, and as I watching the seduction scene in the barn, I wondered if men back then thought that lesbians were lesbians only because they hadn’t been thrown in the hay by a brylcremed Scot in a three-piece suit and forcibly kissed. And I mean, forcibly - everyone in the films of that era smooches with an odd dry-lip grinding action that looks rather vengeful. Anti-kissing, as far as understand the process today. Nein moisturen! All spittle und tung must be reMOOFed, jah? Doesn’t look fun at all.

Honor Blackman, though: whew.

During my seven-minute sleep, I actually dreamed up a web site makeover, so when I got up I slapped together a prototype, and yea, it works. The site hasn’t had a stem-to-stern makeover in a year, and while this one won’t be significant, it’ll still qualify as version 5.0. This spring marks an anniversary of the site - it went up in ‘96, which, in Internet terms, makes it the equivalent of Poor Richard’s Almanack. But this weekend will be spent on the last, last bachelor fling. Pizza every night! Bond movies! Watch “Titanic,” but just skip to the part where things blow up and people die! Drink beer and REFUSE to recycle the bottles! Play music loud and do the funky chicken, or even the phat emu, or the git-down cornish game hen. Can’t wait!

For my wife to come home, that is.