Gnat learned to honk this weekend. She’s had post-nasal drip, and this makes for loud ripe snorts when she breaths sharply through her nose. It’s a most unattractive sound, but amusing once you realize she doesn’t have Lithuanian Whooping Grippe or any other disease that regularly carried off the tots in the good old days. She had many new things this weekend:

1. A chair that clamps to the table so she can grab knives, forks, and other implements and throw them to the ground
2. A new small Playskool toy she loves to grab, bang on the table, and throw to the ground
3. A trip to Don Pablo’s restaurant, where she looked around with considerable trepidation before finding consolation in Quintopus, her favorite toy, whom she nevertheless threw to the ground

This is “play,” baby-style: pick up an object, examine it, shake it up and down, throw it away. Repeat until everything is out of reach. I put her on the floor while I work, turning around every 16 seconds to make sure she hasn’t somehow conjured up a broadsword and is waving it around. It’s amazing: plant her down in the little pillow, pile her lap with cups, a jingly worm, and this odd little rack of cymbals. I turn back to work. Sixteen seconds later I turn around and every toy has been flung to the far corners of the room; she’s fallen over, wriggled off the quilt and is face down on the hardwood floor.

That’s what we did all morning while I cleaned up the 70s interior site. And by “clean” I mean I completely overhauled everything, all the graphics and navigation and index pages. One hundred plus pages.

I’m so very sick of this. I’ve been lashed to the machinery most of the weekend, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of all my hobbies that involve typing. I’m tired of the jobs that require typing. I’m tired of staring at this iMac. After all this stuff is done I’m taking a year off. Not from the Bleat - from the site. No more updates. I’m going to take a year to polish my Flash, learn CSS and other tricks and come back in ‘03 with a new site.

Yeah, right.

Anyway. We had an errand to run to BabysRus this weekend, so I scraped the snow off the BB, shoveled the walk, carried Gnat out to the backseat. It was Sara’s first time in the new vehicle; she loved it. I enjoyed plowing through the snow FOR ONCE. Went right up the hill without fear or whining wheels. Lunch at Don Pablo’s, which serves utterly ordinary pseudoMex, but does so in an authentically faux Mexican setting. (Or, as the menus in Cozumel always seem to say, “typically Mexican.” They use “typical” freely, unaware it that it’s come to connote something ordinary and unexceptional.) It’s the 60s hand-painted ads on the stucco walls I love. The naked light bulbs screwed into basic ceramic fixtures. The flaking walls. The filthy scarred doors of the restrooms. Other people’s poverty is so much fun when you’re not them and you’re not there.

In the past, only Marie Antoinette could have the servants build a Petit Trianon and pretend to be a peasant. Now everyone gets to pretend.

Over to BabysRUs. Bought stuff to go in one end and bags to snare the processed results. When we came to the check-out stand, the clerk was chatting merrily with a coworker. I pulled up, unloaded the goods.

“Can I havyo phonnumer, areaco furs.”

“Nope!” I smiled, as usual.

She scowled at us throughout the rest of the transaction.

Reminded me of a moment at the video store on Saturday. Went with Jasper to return some DVDs and pick up more. The staff, as usual, consisted of one new guy and one guy who’d been there the previous time. The turnover in the store is alarming, and in some cases I’m glad; some clerks just give you the creeps, and you’re not fond that they have your name and address right there on the computer screen. This store - the big chain in the neighborhood, as opposed to the local mom&pop chain around the corner - always has heaps of unshelved tapes and discs behind the counter. I never find what I’m looking for on the shelf. It’s always in the tottering stack waiting to be shelved after they close. The help generally, but not always, has the enthusiasm of draftees. Why? Because management, in its shining wisdom, elected to put a Mission Statement by the door. It lists several objectives, all of which are standard gassy boilerplate about Excellence and Striving For Maximum Customer Preference-Point Perfection, and other BS buzzwords that management labors long to craft. Workers regard these things as insulting. The more high-flying the lingo on the Mission Statement, the more likely the staff will look at it and say you ain’t paying me enough to care about brand solidity, pal.

Anyway. Enough. Jeez! Enough! I’ll be heading downstairs after I upload, as usual, and I’ll watch some TiVo, as usual. Same damn shows. Different episodes. I propose a new word: TiVobligation. The feeling one ought to watch all those old Miami Vices you taped, even though you really don’t want to. They’ll be around again. Everything rolls around again. I’ll be spooning in mush in the Wrinkly Pines Home, and there’ll be a 40-hour marathon of Andy fargin’ Griffith on holochannel 901.

And there’d better be a holochannel by the time I’m withered. No interplanetary space travel I can accept - not happily, but I’ll accept it. But I want my 3D TV!

On second thought, that just means I’ll have to spend my declining years rewriting the website for an extra dimension. Well, screw THAT.


I was standing behind the pimply-necked kid at the checkout stand of the magazine store. He was chatting cheerfully - So! Whaddya think of the XFL? - while the clerk totaled up a brick-thick stack of porn. And it wasn’t even the porn that has a few thin fig-leaf articles and cigarette ads - no, this was just wall-to-wall stuff. So! Some weather, huh? Usually guys buying a stack of wank manuals slink in and out, but this guy was just cheerful and outgoing. You expected him to say “Thanks for bagging my copy of Asian Teen Feet with such care and precision!”


He left; I paid for my copy of Playboy, and before the clerk gave me change I ripped it open and pawed through it. Ah! Wow!

Wouldja lookit this!

See? I said to the Giant Swede, who was next in line. I told you I was in here.

And I was. I’d been informed by a number of emailers that the Art Frahm website had been featured in Playboy, and since I like to have a copy of all the publications that mention this site, well, I had to have the Playboy. It’s a third of the page. Unbelievable. It has the main splash page graphic as well, something I whipped together at the last minute when I was redoing the site. I do this entirely for my own amusement; to see a graphic I’ve designed reprinted in a national magazine is just a hoot. It’s weird, too: hey, that’s mine! I did that! Even the illustrations had a few little graphic elements I’d introduced to prevent theft.

Apparently I get a design credit on the forthcoming book, too. This is all proof that life is highly unfair.

Watched “Manhunter.” Stupid title. Fabulous movie. Short digression: For some peculiar reason, the director - Michael Mann - decided to redo the movie as a Miami Vice episode, with Sonny Crockett as the man who Gets Too Close to the Case, and begins to think like the man he’s hunting. It was a spooky episode; I recall the crazed killer throwing flour on meat and yawning hugely. Naturally, Sonny prevailed, but at the usual personal cost. What a job: half of the good people he was protecting died, he shot at least 100 criminals, and 63% of his girlfriends met bad ends. It’s something I want to teach Gnat: never date a fictional detective.

Anyway. This was the widescreen version of “Manhunter,” which I hadn’t seen. Nearly every frame strikes the modern eye as familiar - the shot composition, the postures of the characters, the palettes. Today this style is ubiquitous, and usually means you’re in for a film that’s stylish and empty. But in Mann’s hands, it was new. The film has a cool sheen, but it’s not just a series of lacquered flash cards. It’s careful and obsessively focused, just like its hero - William Pederson, in full mid-80s stubble mode. I’ll go out on a limb here: “Manhunter” in many ways is better than “Silence of the Lambs.” While Anthony Hopkins’ Lecter is a marvelously creepy character, Brian Cox’s jaded, dead-eyed version make Hopkins look cuddly and chatty. People who want Jodie Foster being all Plucky and Brave will prefer “Silence.” I’ll take “Manhunter,” just to be contrary. Better cinematography, better art direction, and maybe even a better Lecter. All this plus Dennis Farina, America’s favorite pockmarked ex-cop Italian actor.


Yesterday’s announcement that I was transforming the Bleat into a thin little blog with a few daily links was misunderstood by some, so in case my rant was a tad too oblique: the Bleat, for better or worse, will remain in its current form forever, unless I decide to quit. Which isn’t likely.

That said, there’s no Bleat today, just a few links.

But they’re meaty. The first installment of the 70s Interior Design site is up. I’ve proofed it and examined it twice online, but I’m sure it’s riddled with errors, and has the occasional vast boring patch. Keep in mind that this entire site is more or less a rough draft; the pages that stink will be carefully excised from the book version - should such a thing happen - and we’ll all pretend they never happened. I will say that there is one page buried in the site that just might be my favorite of any page on the site. It’s the one with the faux Indian chant. I don’t know why. It just makes me grin; once you get the rhythm, say it out loud. It’s fun.

The Gateway section in Mpls is quite large, and even if you’re not a Minneapolitan, it’s an interesting look at the sort of cityscape that’s completely vanished. As much as I love the modern world and all its joys, some of these pictures make me want to give it up and move back home to 1947. And these are pictures of skid row, ferchrissakes.

If you’ve not liked the Lance Lawson site before, you might enjoy this month’s story. It’s one of my favorites. It has no point and there’s no mystery, but it’s rather sad anyway. And there’s much Bulgarian money, with the now-obligatory history lesson . . . anything else? No.

Yes, I could post the links here, but I won’t. Think of this as a monthly magazine; start with the cover and go from there. Hope this stuff fills a few lunch hours in an agreeable fashion. The Bleat returns Monday, March Fifth.

(One other note: the picture above and the main site picture are chosen to offset the horrors of the 70s sites. I like the colors of this bathroom. I’d kill to live in the house on the front page. I want a yellow car - but only if it’s that one.)