JUNE Part 2
Patsy Cline on the headphones now. Did anyone express inconsolable heartbreak with such piercing purity? Nope. But what a bad role model for modern youth. Why, in every song she defines herself in relation to a man. Bad messages here for Kids Today; I think we should rewrite them all.

Walkin’ After Midnight - should be Jogging Before Breakfast (“Oh I go joggin’ / Before Breakfast / with the walkman / set to only NPR”)

Sweet Dreams of You - change it to “Empowering Visioning Sessions about the Community.”

Crazy - well, that won’t stand. “Insufficiently Medicated,” perhaps.

Or just plain “Prozac.” (“Prozac . . . It’s Prozac that smooths heartache out now / It’s Prozac . . . One pill just blanks out the pain / Prozac . . . It’s Prozac I so want to take now / Prozac . . . It’s Prozac that blands out my brain. / Slurry! Why is my speech so damn slurry? / Blurry - I’ll never see your face again. . . oh Prozac, etc)

The Patsy Cline story was on TV the other night - just caught the end. It’s a good movie, from what I remember. Makes you wonder if in 300 years they’ll make movies about pop-stars who died tragically in transporter accidents. I hope not. A small-plane crash is a horrible, sad way to end a movie; a heaving heap of meat on the transporter pad would just be disgusting.

Went out to Prince’s studio today. I’d been advised to arrive early, since the crowds would be enormous. Millions of Prince fans, clamoring for their chance to get into Paisley Park and inhale the rarefied air of the Artist. I got there an hour after the doors had opened. Parked ten yards away. Paid my $15 for admission - they didn’t have any change for my 20. No one had a fiver. Walkie-talkie crackle: anyone have a five? No. Cell-phone shouting: Katie’s at the store picking up some stuff, have her get some fives.

The epicenter of all things Prince, and it’s about as well-run as a 7th grade ice-cream social.

Stood in line. Watched the crowd. t’s a good looking crowd, well-behaved, with all the basics. Woman with loud mechanical laugh? Check. Preening dolt whose bray is matched only the imbecility of his commentary? Check. Rail-thin miserable fashion victims? Check. Bouncy happy hippy chick? Check, check, check, check. Slavic Mafioso? Chechen. Really: there was a group of tourists with Eastern European accents, including one short butch-swagger Dondi with short hair and a shorter temper and the expression of someone who keeps a razor blade under her tongue, just in case. But mostly it was lumpen locals, shivering in the miserable wind. It was supposed to be in the 80s today. It was in the low sixties.

The line did not move. An hour after the doors were supposed to be open, the line was inert. Then - movement! The doors opened, the building consumed 30 people and then the doors were shut while the building digested the latest mouthful. I did some calculations and thought: I’ll be in this line for two hours, at least.

But they brought the day-pass people up to the front for a separate tour. I was inside within 20 minutes. And then the tour was -

Well, read all about it in the Star Tribune, Friday.

It was over in 40 minutes. Went home. The dog greeted me, confused: the sun was in the wrong place for me to come through the front door after an extended absence. What is this? I had lunch, wrote the bare bones of the piece, e-mailed it to the office, drove to HQ, and rewrote the piece. I’d expected I would be bent over the keyboard all day and all night with this project, but I was done by three.

And that was today. Two more columns to go. Counting Bleats - which I shouldn’t - this is a Ten Piece Week, and that makes me realize that I publish more in one month than Fran Lebowitz publishes in ten fargin’ years. Quantity, of course, never assures quality, but still, I did that Patsy stuff in five minutes with no rewrites, and there’s something to be said for turning out somewhat-better-than-mediocre content with blinding speed.

Of course, turn out one brilliant paragraph a year, and your reputation as a genius is assured.

I’m going about this ALL wrong.

At eight PM tonight it was 92.

I’m happy.

Really. I love weather like this, and no, I don’t have AC. Just fans. One big fan in the bedroom window that drags air from window, passes it over the bed and exhales it outside. Just wear less clothes, that’s the key to survival. I’m wearing a tank top from 1988 - it’s very, very thin, the sort Hulk Hogan rips off just by flexing his pectorals.

Saw him do this on TV last night; was doing the usual cable prowl and saw the Hulkster enter a ring, roar, and rip off his shirt. Well, there’s a new idea. There’s a novel approach. Next, on VH1: Pete Townsend smashes his 5,343rd guitar. Hogan’s about 58 years old now, isn’t he? His arms look like someone’s stuffed bronze-hued Play-doh into a Bunyan-sized condom. It’s not a good look anymore. None of these steroidal Golems look impressive in the year 2000. They all look like someone who’d be run through with a broadsword after 14 seconds in the ring with Russell Crowe’s Maximus.

Where was I? Ah: it’s warm. The dog is in his cave, a cool spot behind a chair he seeks in the warm months. No breeze, no noise; sound cannot stir the torpid air.

I’m happy. I never complain about the cold, and I never complain about the heat. As long as it’s cold when it’s supposed to be cold, and hot when it’s supposed to be hot.

Sometimes a little knowledge is, well, annoying. Last night I saw a commercial for New York Life. It showed a newsboy hawking a paper below the company’s signature NY tower: Lindy Lands in Paris. And I thought: that’s not right. Lindy was what, 1927? The tower wasn’t built in 1927. Went upstairs, checked my reference books. Indeed: the tower was started in 27, finished in 29. And it’s not a very good building, either. Cass Gilbert’s least-impressive skyscraper. (He’s a local boy - designed the Minnesota State capitol, the U of M mall; I proposed to my wife beneath the forest of Gilbert’s columns.) So now I’d proved the point to my satisfaction: the commercial was wrong.

So? It’s not as if I can work this into a conversation. It’s not water-cooler talk. It’s just one of those things that slowly, inexorably, turns you into a cranky old fart, makes you scowl at the TV. That’s all WRONG! Idjits. Don’t know nothin’ ‘bout the controversy over Gilbert’s antiquated historicism.

Popularity of Gallagher: explain. Someone. Explain. It’s a conundrum we all face at some point in our lives, prowling around the cable channels, coming across this evil-faced imp atomizing melons. Gallagher: not funny. Yet a large crowd of people is laughing. Why?

Perhaps some day he will be convicted of a horrible crime and sentenced to death. Method of execution: Sledge O Matic. And as his head sits on the wooden block, he looks out at the audience, all of whom are smart, witty people, the sort of people he knows have been seeing through him for years. Someone shouts “it’s not even funny when it’s your head,” and then the final blow. But we can only dream.

Many of the weblogs I visit now consist of the blogger talking about something another blogger said about blogging. It’s a subject secondary only to discussions of one’s own, or other people’s, redesigns. And many blogs spend a lot of time linking to pages about web development - in fact, the most serious and well-respected blogs seem to concern themselves entirely with web design issues. I find this stuff interesting, but it just proves that all mass mediums end up the same: ten million people watching ten people talk about each other. Why should the web be different?

When I finished work I drove to a coffee shop and read a comic book. I knew my wife would be napping, or walking Jasper, so there wasn’t any point in phoning home. Might as well pause en route and read. I’ve never read a comic in public before. Felt . . . peculiar, but the place was empty, so it didn’t matter. Otherwise I would have been compelled to open up a notebook, scowl, and make a few scrawls every ten pages. Why, he’s not just reading it - he’s a critic! Well, that changes everything.

It was the final gripping chapter of the Jimmy Corrigan : Smartest Man on Earth graphic novel by Chris Ware. Quite possibly the most depressing thing I’ve ever read. Highly recommended. Relentlessly sentimental and relentlessly deadpan, funny as hell, ingeniously rendered. It all looks very cold - no shadows, curious perspectives, uniform line widths, simple palettes - but there’s more heart & head on any given page than in most novels I read. The collected chapters are coming out in August from Pantheon. It’s the Maus of the 90s! Well, no - but like Maus, it’s one of those creations that makes everything else look like, well, like comic books.

Ware’s next project, “Rusty Brown,” looks to be as wrist-slittingly grim as Corrigan.

Peace out. Love one another. Unless the other is Gallagher.

At 5:50 AM this morning, I rose up like a dead man on his deathbed - head rising from the pillow, hand unsteadily clawing the air - and I cried:

Death to all birds!

And then I fell back and said no more.

So my wife tells me. She’d been awake for a while, thanks to our avian neighbors. I was talking with a friend at work, mentioning my hatred of these marauders, and he was astonished: you don’t like birds? It was as if I’d confessed to shoving puppies in the disposal. NO I don’t like birds, not at 5 AM, and not when they tweet their fargin’ skulls off for NO particular reason. And theirs is not a gentle sibilant twittering. They’re unbelievably loud and crude. They’re like a Concerto for Cymbal and Police Whistle, by Rosanne Barr, performed by the audience of the Jerry Springer Show.

Death to all birds!

Put the air conditioner in the window tonight. That should help - the machine has a basso profundo rumble that should drown out the little bastards. Of course, the air conditioner also knocks out the fuses when it gets wound up, which could knock out the automatic coffee maker.

Life is suddenly perilous.

But lovely. A beautiful day and a fine warm weekend. Spent the afternoon crippling myself; I have no doubt that I will be unable to walk tomorrow. It was the annual Scrape & Hose the Porch Sunday, which meant that everything on the porch had to go on the lawn. And after Sara had cleaned the porch, everything went back. “Everything” being seven chairs, one table, and fourteen terra cotta pots that range from - well, I don’t know the weight. But the sounds I make when I pick them up varies from erk! to Wugh to (pained silence ). I made sure to use my legs when lifting, not by back, but damn the luck: my arms are attached to my back-area, not the legs. So there’s some back involved no matter what I do.

Five of those pots topped ninety pounds, easy.

Mowed the lawn. Removed a blind , took it outside, cleaned its 60+ slats, reinstalled it. Put in two window pulls. Hooked up the dehumidifier, ran the hose to the drain, rearranged the basement boxes to permit access to the air conditioner. Got the Giant Swede over to assist with AC. Mopped the kitchen floors, did two loads of laundry, 409’d the cabinets and door frames, got groceries, hoovered the upstairs and downstairs, gave the dog a bath. And now it’s Sunday night. Weekend’s over.

HEY, wait a minute -

But it had some fun. Much, actually. Went to dinner Saturday night for the Giantess Swede’s birthday - went to J.D. Hoyt’s, a local chophouse. I always order the Cajun porkchops. You get two. Each is the size of Liechtenstein. I always bring one home - had it for supper, in fact. So there was that. And there were movies, but that’s another Bleat.

Took a walk with Jasper this evening, in the seven-thirty summer sun. It feels like July around here. I don’t know why; perhaps it’s me, but the summer already feels shopworn and handled. The new-season smell has evaporated; there’s a ding on the door. This isn’t a bad thing. Not at all. But it’s been green for two and a half months and hot for half of that; some internal clock says JULY. And the internal clock also says: go home. Go back to Fargo; walk, look, revisit, remember. I think I’ll do just that, soon. But not this week.

And certainly not tomorrow. If I can stand tomorrow, I’ll be happy. I might just put the laptop near the bed so I can write the column there.

And the first words might well be:

Death to all birds!

Got a call from a Florida radio station this afternoon - they’d read the Prince piece, and wanted to talk to me about his studio tour. The message on the machine was from “Dan ‘D.C.’ Cody” - not, I suspect, his real name. He referred me to “Brian O’Brian.” Both of these fellows had that over-hyped radio inflection known as “puking.” Of the two, DC was crowding Mr. Creosote for pukemeister status.

They threw me right on the air. It was an “urban contemporary” station; while I was on hold I heard some skittery tune about being jiggy widda bitch and the hoopdie and the cheddah, and so forth. Then I was ON. I watched the clock and spoke in 20 second bursts and I talked HOT. I SERVED the SAUCE. If it’s AM radio, you can stretch, but on FM, you’d better punch it up and be brisk lest the ID jingle swell up the moment you ramble or start to blather. The interview ended when I ended it. Got out on my terms. Word.

What a peculiar life.

It’s warm enough and cool enough, both, and neither; you don’t know what to wear. Little sun, some rain, a bit of a wind. Shorts? Brr. Long pants? Man, I’m broilin’. It’s 59 outside right now and 77 in my studio.

Or so my junior iMac clock says. Really: a tiny graphite-edition iMac clock, not sanctioned by Apple. On the contrary: cry HAVOC! and let slip the lawyers of copyright. But it’s adorable. It’s the Mini-Me of iMacs. Not that I found Mini-Me adorable, or even funny. Which reminds me: read today that Mike Meyers has backed out of the Schprockets project. Too bad. And he’s been sued by the studio. His rationale: he could not deliver a quality script that justified his high price tag.

I’d like to think he’s serious, and has realized that he is not only capable of clever cheerful humor, but that he can suck so hard & deep when he’s lazy that it’s just a waste of everyone’s time.

Saw four movies over the weekend.

1. The Dad-Pleaser

Sometimes a restored classic movie turns out to be . . .a boring restored classic movie. Watched “The Guns of Navarone.” Had a distant fragmentary childhood memory of seeing it on TV - specifically, on Grandpa’s color TV out at the farm. I remembered the big guns toppling into the sea. And indeed, the big guns toppled into the sea again, but it took about nine hours to get there, and it wasn’t a very gripping journey. The movie was slow. It had the pace of Gregory Peck working up a really, really serious scowl. I’m not saying I like ‘em like Armageddon, with a different camera shot every 1.5 seconds, but it was just a slug on sandpaper compared to, say, “Where Eagles Dare.”

Now there’s a manly movie. With Clint Eastwood as The Leftenant! Can’t be beat. But “Eagles,” like “Guns,” contains copious amounts of Movie Nazis. These are different than Actual Nazis. If Hitler’s army had been composed of Movie Nazis, it would have been, to quote any of the cocky, effete soldiers David Niven played in the 60s, a damned deuce of a thing, eh?

Movie Nazis are, without exception, extremely motivated and extremely suspicious. If it is the last five minutes of a ten-hour guard duty shift, and they hear a twig snap on the other side of the valley, they will instantly assume that these are commandos, and they will investigate. If someone is supposed to check in on the hour, and they’ve done so without fail for 437 times, if they sound a little . . . odd on the 438th time, a little out of breath, the officer making the call will not assume that the guy was running back from the latrine - he will assume that the commandos have overrun the position, and he will send 300 troops.

And this is bad, but it could be worse. Movie Nazis can always be killed, by one of two ways:

1. Grab them around the neck from behind. This always seems to kill them dead. They grimace and go limp.

2. Trip them while they’re on their motorcycles. Movie Nazis love to ride motorcycles, because - as in “Where Eagles Dare” - they are utterly unsuited to the environment and easily mishandled. When a Movie Nazi gets in a motorcycle, relax. Soon he will hit a bump, or a tripwire, and go end-over-end over the handlebars.

If I ever made one of these movies, I’d the somersaulting Movie Nazi explode when he hit the ground, just for the fun of it.

2. The Cult Fave

Finally saw The Matrix. I’d been put off by all the hype, since everyone had told me it was SOO COOL etc - while the idea of everyone living in a manipulated world, unaware that our thoughts and lives are being manipulated by malevolent conquerors, I thought, well, okay, where can you take the idea? But from the very start, where our hero gets that phone call, warning him that the bad guys are coming up the elevator, I was hooked. The interrogation with the weird scary hypo - yikes. And of course, great special effects - loved those rooftop chases with the impossible leaps from building to building - and a wonderful sense of style, right down to the black trenchcoats. Fabulous battle at the end, too, as our hero realizes he can manipulate this environment as well as his enemies. Acting - well, Keifer Sutherland did a lousy job, but it didn’t ruin the movie. William Hurt - not my favorite actor; far from it - was pretty good, too. I just wished the hero hadn’t reminded me of the lead actor from Flashdance, but all in all an enjoyable movie.

I’m sorry, did I say “The Matrix?” I meant “Dark City.”

3. The Art-House Genre-Flick Wank

Also watched “The Limey,” which was irritating - a fairly average movie made portentous by editing. And ruined by editing, too - at the beginning of the movie, there’s a series of images, things you haven’t seen yet, and if you try to sort them out, you realize you’re seeing the ending of the film. Takes the suspense out of it, but of course when an Artist is reworking a film, that’s what he does. “Suspense” is for the hacks content to wallow in the unexamined givens of the genre.

I’d rented it because I read many fine reviews, and been intrigued by Soderberg’s idea - take an old Terence Stamp movie and intersperse it through a new film as a series of flashbacks. Great idea! And it’s used . . . about three times, for a total of perhaps three, or two, minutes.
The editing is just annoying - we see a character’s face, and although we hear his voice, his lips aren’t moving. Then they are. Then the same conversation is happening elsewhere. Then it’s not. I know, I know, it fits the subject, but it seemed to be an affectation, and it covered up what was a rather slender tale in the first place. If you’re in the mood for this sort of thing, it works just fine.

I wasn’t in the mood.

4. The Hugely Hyped “Dangerous” Movie

“Fight Club.” I had no interest in this one, because it just sounded dank and stupid: a bunch of guys amuse themselves by meeting at night and beating the tar, snot, blood, krep and stuffing out of each other. Yeah, yeah, macho bonding. But people kept telling me to see it - if only for the DVD extras. Okay. Fine. Plugged it in last night, sat back prepared to watch it so I could say I’d seen it.
Within ten minutes I hit pause, and thought: huh?
This has absolutely no relation to any review I read, and I read them all. This is . . .hilarious. This is sharp as sticks in a tiger trap. This is not a paean to nihilism; on the contrary. This is fargin’ brilliant. I didn’t finish it, since the night wore on and I got sleepy, but even if the movie goes completely in the tank in the last 30 minutes, I still love it. Any movie that starts in the brain, backpedals through the neurons to a gun in the hero’s mouth, then flashes back to a breasty weeping Meatloaf and makes it all seem part of a seamless, inexplicable yet perfectly sensible whole - well, that’s my kind of movie. Not for everyone. But you could say that about three out of four on this weekend’s list.

In order:
Fight Club
Dark City
The Limey
Guns of Novacainarone

Rain at the moment - warm rain and a cool breeze. A nice combination. Makes a man want to wander out to the porch with a small cigar and a strong cup of coffee, sit on the steps with his dog, drink in the aromas of the evening, then look at his dog and ask:

Did you rub in a dead squirrel? A dead squirrel that had eaten a fish? A dead squirrel that had eaten a fish that fed at the sewer outflows of a community stricken with dysentery?

The dog looked at me, ears quivering at the word “squirrel,” but I lost him with the dysentery part. He went back to staring at the big black block of night that was crowding the screen. So did I.

This morning on the walk Jasper had his own route planned. Usually it’s into the woods, down the path, over the bridge, turn left into the unpaved path along the creek, into the clearing, over another bridge, through the Elysian Field, into the alley. Today he stopped after the first bridge and looked up at the stairs. Didn’t sit, didn’t pout, just stood there, looking up. I know what this means. Just for sport I kept walking until the leash was extended 20 feet. He didn’t look me. Just kept looking north, as if he was ignoring his own disobedience, as if going up the stairs was the way it always happened, and he would wait for me to realize this. It’s uncanny, but he’s trying to make his desires seem like my idea. I don’t know any other way to put it.

So we went up the stairs. Went west a few blocks, past the lovely old houses along the creek. Huge houses, stucco-encrusted, wrapped with cool green vines, topped with bright Mediterranean tiles, sitting at the end of a broad long lawn. Unbelievably expensive places. Six bedrooms, living rooms as large as soundstages. Set you back 425, 450K.

(We pause while any CA or NYC readers spew coffee in a hot brown spray into the monitor.)

After two blocks heading west, Jasper turned north. And stood there. Looking north. Tail straight out. Ears at half mast. No eye contact.

Didn’t work this time. This is one of the joys of owning dogs: they’re the one creature whose chain you can literally yank. Just took a little tug, but he got the idea.

Walked on. Listening to the radio. Heard a seasonal commercial - one that played last year at this time. Same theme, same text. Felt momentary panic: ANOTHER YEAR GONE. Felt depressed to realize that it was a stupid radio spot that brought on this attack of mortality. Then looked up at the trees in the woods, the thick blue sky, and thought: better than having it pass without me.

Over the bridge. Chased the dog home. It was a tie.

Now I’m going out back to finish that cigar.

Ah. Back. It’s nice to step away from the machinery, especially when the computer has once again become the equivalent of the sweaty fat guy who walks down the middle of the slave galley and whips the slackers. Duty, duty, duty. Tonight I began phase 3 of Stuff Reduction: ripping all the classical CDs. Doing Mahler right now - a live version of the 1st by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. One of the discs that come with my BBC magazine. Hadn’t listened to it before, and I’m rethinking the wisdom of saving this version; the tempi make the latter days of Otto Klemperer sound like someone playing the Sabre Dance at 78 RPM.

Man, is this a boring performance. Let’s stop converting. Now.

Now it’s last months BBC disc: Peter & the Wolf, by Prokofiev. Sloow and clumsy. That Peter-skipping-in-the-meadow theme is one of my favorites from childhood; nothing sums up the first free summer day of youth. NEXT. Now . . . Symphony #3 by Saint-Saens, the “Organ” Symphony. (Heh. Hehheh. He scored it for “organ.” Heh. Hey Beavis, you said “scored.” Heh. French composers rule.) Okay, this one passes.

I don’t even have time
to scan & post the most frightening clown picture ever photographed. But I will soon. Short Bleats for a while, I’m afraid - too many paying projects demand the nighttime hours, including the book version of the Gallery. That one is fun to do - it’s mostly written, but I keep adding and adding, and I like what I’m adding.

Three calls on the machine from radio stations when I got to work. Each wanted to talk about my tour of the Prince facility. One in Kansas, one in Vegas, one somewhere else. Apparently news of my interview went out on a morning update sent to all urban contemp stations. Well, if I’m at my desk when they call, fine, but I’m not going to call them up and arrange an 8 AM interview. Sorry. Reasons:

1. I don’t need to do it.
2. There’s no publicity for any of my projects in it.
3. I’m tired of the subject.

There’s no money, either, but I’m glad of that. Arranging for a $25 paycheck is more annoying than it’s worth - the paperwork, the tax consequences (nothing less amusing than toting up ten 1099 at year’s end, and weeping as you calculate the tax.) So forget it. Big Nix.

The only thing worse than being called, of course, is not being called; the surest way to say Yes to a radio interview is for someone to say they Might want to have you on.

Back to work.