01 .07 .02
Took down the tree. The last few nights we hadn’t plugged it in, which probably gave the tree a clue what was coming. Poor trees. A nice life in the forest, then hideous violence. Then they’re shipped to a lot with similarly wounded comrades. Then they’re adopted. Then they’re adorned and venerated; gifts are heaped at their feet. Then one day the lights - the glorious lights! - don’t come on . . . the decorations are removed . . . hey, is that a BURIAL SHROUD? Guys! Come on! Please! I can hold on to my needles - watch! See? Didn’t shed one! I’ll be good!

Out it went. Then I showered, hopped in the car and met wife & child at a family burger place for dinner. As anyone with tots knows, you choose loud messy places, and you learn to eat fast. Gnat behaved, although all she wanted to eat was french fries. There was an accoustic guitarist plinking through the rubble of conversation, and Gnat was fascinated: she walked up and stood a few feet away, listening with rapt delight. And the man serenaded her with “Feelin’ Groovy.” Whereupon my daughter proved that it is possible to dance to Simon and Garfunkel.

What else for this weekend? Friday night I did a monologue on a local live TV show called Almanac; I’ve done this for years, but I still get that thump-thump in the chestal area right before I go on. You see the credits rolling on the monitor; you think of allll the times in your life you’ve been on the other side of the glass, and you realize how catastrophic it will be if you seize up in a fit of panic. Then your spotlight comes on, the camera goes red, the floor director points to you, and you - are - on. I’d written my favorite kind of monologue: I start with unassailable, annoying confidence and become completely unmanned in the course of 90 seconds. It’s the only acting I ever get to do, and 1.7 seconds into the bit I was flooded with the same emotion I always get: man, this is fun. Talking to a big glass square: can’t get enough right now. How something so unnatural can instantly feel so natural is the mystery of the medium, I guess.

I wish I did more TV, but in all honesty I have to admit there’s probably a reason I don’t.

What else? Played Halo - yes yes, BORING, BORING. But: anyone interested in the capabilities of video games these days might profit from this small report. The game is like Myst with guns - by which I mean this: Myst was known for its vaunted photorealism and immersive qualities. The modern gamer, of course, would bark a Krabapple-like hah! but it really did set a new standard at the time. Halo is as different from previous games as Myst was from the old blocky scrollers. (Not to say those were bad games - one of the best I ever played, “Indiana Jones and the Something or Other of Atlantis,” will ever be remembered as fondly as an Infocom adventure or the first level of Doom.) When you look down in Halo, you see real grass; when you look over a cliff, you see the waves hit the shore, and the sea glistens. It’s incredibly beautiful. And exciting: one level begins with a view of the ocean below, and as you turn your character around you see you’re sitting in the back of a drop ship; you see another ship below;, winging over the water, and everything is moving. How many years we are away from absolute photorealism, I don’t know, but I am more hopeful that I’ll one day get a chance to play the game I want to play:

Avatar Falls, an open-ended, real-time experience of living in a small town circa 1955. You could choose your character - high school kid, family man, solitary tradesman, secretary, PI, movie-theater operator, whatever - and be that person. Creative AI could run speech-generation routines that were flexible enough to respond to your speech or your actions. You could put it on auto-pilot, so if you didn’t play for a week your character would still get up and go to work, and when you turned it back on things had happened to others, just not to you. Maybe you could even drive to another town.

The future of storytelling will always be stories, but there’s something to be said for writing just enough to bring a world to life, and letting the world take care of itself. I thought of this sometimes when playing Quake Arena - I would hear explosions and firefights down a corridor, or be camping high on a rafter and watch computer-generated characters have their own battles; the same thing never happened twice. All this sturm and drang existed as a series of instructions in the CPU; I didn’t see it; it happened in hallways that did not exist; yet it happened.

If such a game did exist, I’d probably end up drifting away from both hobbies and family, spending all my time in my movie theater - I can easily imagine sitting down for a hour to change the letters on the marquee, for example. Get the ladder, get the box of letters, run out of Ms and resort to using inverted Ws, chat with someone who strolled by. Whether such games are possible I don’t doubt, but whether they’re commercially feasible is another question. More likely it would be an online game, which would change the entire experience for the better and the worse, make it less of an improvised movie and more of a glorified chat room.

It’ll happen, I think. People would naturally gravitate towards realistic persistent environments - imagine IMs taking place in a window on your screen that shows a bar or a beach or a diner, each filled with what appears to be real people. I’m hanging out in the 70s this week; meet me at the roller rink.

If this happens, it will almost be a version of the Star Trek episode in which everyone goes to live in a planet’s past. The need to build an actual future will seem less compelling when a cheap & painless version is available on your desktop. I’ve always thought that Star Trek was the thing that really killed space exploration - it was much more immediate and fully-realized, and no matter what we actually did, a little geeky part of you said been there done that; wake me when we invent warp drive.

The topic drift here should indicate that I’m really just babbling . . . so enough. Here’s some stuff:


All my appliances have entered into a suicide pact. it seems. On Friday the disposal started making a sound as if it was gargling forks; the little water spout on the fridge went dry, and the microwave stopped beeping. It just fell mute. It worked, but when you pushed a button you got no feedback, no reassurance that your command had been recognized. Pity - this was the best microwave I ever had, because it had a button for POPCORN. It had served me for seven years, though; not bad. But out it went, and out Gnat and I went to find a replacement.

Off to Warner-Stellion, an appliance store around the corner; there must have been seven people working, and no one came up to ask if I needed any help. I made three passes through the aisles, made eye contact with every employee, and left. At Best Buy they had a spiffy Sharp with a POPCORN button, but it was an inch too tall, and nothing else had a face that matched the other appliances. At Circuit City I stood confused in the foyer for a moment before I realized that they no longer carried appliances; they had emptied out that part of the store and replaced it with computers and software. Yes, those are hard-to-find items. Great move, especially when you’re next door to a CompUSA and an OfficeMax. Off to Target, where I found a sleek Emerson with a POPCORN button and the same sort of weight-sensor defrost function. And cheap to boot. Bingo!

Home. Then the Roto-Rooter man came to fix the disposal, and discovered the cause was a tiny rivet that had dislodged from something or other. He went after it like a dentist, with a flashlight and a thin rivet-extraction tool. Since I lacked both tools I didn’t feel bad about paying him $54, especially since I had steeled myself to pay $300 + for a new disposal.

I should mention that the freezer downstairs died two weeks ago too, and stands like an empty shuttle pod. It smells like fridges smell in the store - an unnatural plastic smell that is perhaps the antithesis of new-car smell, but not without good connotations. I like fridges. I like the new-fridge smell. I just don’t like paying for it. Next: the washer and drier will probably go one after the other like an old married couple. I saw a clever new set at Best Buy today - they don’t have the big blocky character of most machines, and have LCD interfaces. Oooh! Gimme! Except that they’re slower to operate than the standard dial-a-temp models - you have to negotiate through menus, which is the last thing I want to do on wash day.

Honnneeey? The washer crashed. Can you reinstall the hot-water drivers?

On the tech subject: there’s a new iMac out, and longtme Bleat readers know I am deeply wedded to my Macs. Some are calling it another Cube - i.e., a spiffy design that will die a dog’s death in the market. Well, I think the Cube failed for a variety of reasons, chief among them price. It wasn’t the lack of expandibility - not many ordinary computer users expand, after all, just as most people who buy a car don’t swap out the engine after a year. It just looked too small to do stuff, frankly. Nice idea, butit didn't look as though it could do anything - at least anything different.

The new iMacs are different, because the screen is connected to the base. This is no small innovation, design wise - instead of buying a mute Cube, you’re getting the whole thing, computer and monitor, and it’s integrated in a completely new way. Yes, yes, big whoop. But there is a wow factor in the design that catches the eye, and once people look at the machine they see that the, uh, integration paradigm extends to everything in the computer you’d want to use.

Let me explain. Some have suggested that few people would need the iMac’s DVD burner, but I disagree. I have a friend who is wedded to Windows, knows ten tons about computers, but finally broke down and bought my spare iMac for editing his digital videos of birthdays and holiday footage. When it comes to a DVD burner, I think he’ll lean towards the new iMacs - because if I have anything to say about it, his wife will want the Mac. This will make some traditional computer users fume, naturally - you should buy the fastest machine for the lowest price! But his wife will want the iMac not because it’s cute - although the fact that it doesn’t look like a big ugly beige computer is not a small part of it - but because once she sees how all the programs fit together, she’ll wonder why you wouldn’t get a Mac.

And again, that’ll infuriate those who rail against Mac’s cosmetic hegemony, but those people are missing the point. Back before I finally taught my TiVo remote to do everything, my wife was annoyed by the number of remotes it took to operate the family entertainment center. One for the TV, one for the amp, one for the cable box, one for the VCR, one for the DVD player. I got a universal remote, but since it was designed to run everything it had no intuitive qualities to its design. (The TiVo remote, on the other hand, can be operated in pitch black once you know its layout, which is the sign of good design.) The iMacs have the universal-remote approach. When you look at the programs you use - mail, browser, music, video editing, photo editing - they look integrated. (Because they ARE.)

You can argue price and power until the sun sets; sure, there are other units that have a little more of this and less of that, and vice versa. Yes, some might want an Apple laptop - and as a proud owner of an iBook, I can see that argument. The iBook is the finest laptop I’ve ever owned, and I work on it every morning; I even use it to do the rough cut of the monthly family video, and use Airport to beam the raw material to the main Mac upstairs. But I’d never choose it as my main computer: I want a real keyboard, and no matter how good laptop keyboards are, they pale compared to the real thing - and laptops never feel like the Real Thing.

To the target market, specs are irrelevant. It’s the software. I have a Sony that supposedly edits video, rips & burns CDs, but figuring out how to do it was so maddening, so laden with cryptic interfaces, that I never bothered to try, and I’m not exactly inexperienced with these machines. Whereas anyone with two fingers can edit a movie on a Mac, set it to music, and burn a DVD without reading a manual. In fact, there isn’t a manual.

Then there’s iPhoto (pronounced “iffato”) which promises to be a picture organizer AND retoucher AND dessert topping in one handy-dandy package; if it works as advertised I will jump for joie, since I have approx. 9 billion pictures on my hard drive, and dearly wish for a means to access them in a trice. Digital camera users to shoot it all and let God sort them out, you end up losing track of your stuff quite quickly. Will I take advantage of Apple’s plan to print a coffee-table book of my iPhoto-collated Gnat and Jasper photos for thirty bucks (for ten pages)? Damn straight. I’m downloading iPhoto as we speak.

Add iTunes and the iPod, and you have the “digital hub.” Finally, I have to smile at the people who scoff at the movable screen - how many times do you have to reposition the screen? they ask. Well, at least once a week I call my wife in to look at a picture or a snippet of video, and to get the best angle she has to sit in my chair while I lean over and type commands. The pivotable screen is tailor-made for showing other people what you’ve done while you sit at the keyboard - a small thing, sure. Sure. But it confirms my suspicion: that bastard Jobs is watching me. I have a kid, I shoot movies, I take pictures, I make CDs of music and DVDs of family events so we can actually watch them now and then without digging through a box of tapes; I like to carry my entire music collection wherever I go, and every so often my wife pops in to look over my shoulder. It’s as if they designed a computer that conforms exactly to what I need.

Now port “Return to Castle Wolfenstein” to the Mac, and the battle is done.


Forty-seven degrees today; felt like spring. The sun was out, the birds were chirping, the icicles were melting, the sentence was devoid of metaphor, the author was tired, the Bleat was off to a dismal start -

Sorry. Long day. I was at the kitchen table this morning working on a column, and Gnat grabbed a cereal box from a shelf. It wasn’t open, so I paid this breach of the rules no mind. While I was paying it no mind she opened the box, opened the container within, and poured the contents on the floor. Unhappy Daddy. Happy Gnat. Happy Dog, although he reverted right to starving-beast mode and started lapping up Chex like he hadn’t had a meal since he was whelped. Somehow Gnat managed to push a couple cups of Chex under a rug, so when I walked over to get the hand vac I heard the most ungodly crunch, as though I had walked over a gigantic reliquary of holy frog bones. But she thought it was a great source of amusement, and she staggered off into the kitchen where she turned in circles chanting “happy happy happy happy.” Seventeen months old. Whatever did I do before she came along?

Slept, of course.

Usually I get a break in the morning when Gnat take a nap, but today she vetoed the whole slumber thing entirely, and after ten minutes would stand in her crib and holler for the warden. (Note to child: it’s more effective in these situations if you call for your Daddy instead of Mommy. Use the guilt. It’s more powerful than the Force.) Eventually the sitter came by so I could run to work, and I left the house well aware Gnat would crash the moment I pulled out of the garage.

The column wrote itself, really; I just pecked away in fits and bursts, and all of a sudden I realized it was finished. The day’s duties were done. A great stone had been lifted from my chest, and I desired nothing more than . . . nothing. To be scoured of thought and care. A vacation doesn’t necessarily do it - I always bring along a small box of Concerns and Nagging Reminders, and even as I sit on the beach I feel the mite-bites of worry, existential dread, crushing awareness of the perishability of the flesh and the transience of all that seems so solid, like that rock over there or that woman’s buttocks over here. This, of course, is why God invented tequila. But flying to Mexico in the middle of the afternoon and getting hammered is not always an option.

So. It’s back home, back to Jasperwood for another ration of the Same Old Something. Feed the tot, make supper, brew a pot of coffee, read the papers; another day lashed to the mast, wiggling your fingers and pretending it’s a grand heroic gesture.

All this rot evaporates the moment Gnat peeks from around the sofa and says “hi, Daddy” in that heart-piercing little voice.

It’s time to feed the baby! Make some supper! Brew a delicious pot of hot brown sustaining go-juice! Consume the papers, tossing them down and shouting Balderdash! or perhaps Poppycock!

I’ll get my Nothing eventually; until then I’d be an idiot to seek it. I should be a counselor for suicidal teens. I’d tell them: no matter how bad it seems now, there’s an 8 in 10 chance that someday down the road you’ll be walking out of the grocery store with your child in your arms, and she’ll turn to the produce section, wave, and say “bye, num.” And no matter how much money you have made that day, or how many enemies you have smited and how much glory you have accumulated since the cock crowed and you girded up to battle the world, that will be the single best moment of your day, if not your week or your year or your life. And it happens every day.

So does the Chex-dump and the diaper that makes your eyebrows melt off, but I’m trying to get people off the ledge, not on the pavement.

Microwave update: one emailer told me I may have turned off the Beep function inadvertantly by pressing a certain combination of keys; he advised I consult the manual. Which, of course, rests in the 1994 stratum of an East Coast landfill. In the future the manual will be in the machine itself, and it will be accessible by voice command, and it will talk back to you. In fact I’ll know the future is here when nothing in the house has LCDs. I hate LCDs. I’ve been staring at them all my life, and their continued persistance strikes me as laziness on the part of industrial designers. They were hip and cool in 1971. Next, please? OK?

Macintosh update: I’ll have to respond to my emails here, because I got a ton of opinions about yesterday’s iMac commentary and I cannot respond individually to all. The critiques on the Mac’s performance vs. the PC platform are valid, but no one seems to have attacked the nifty suite of apps. For years everyone justly criticized the Mac platform for its lack of apps - well, here they are, and then some. (I’ve been using iPhoto today, and it’s already become indispensible.) I’ve also heard this:

The Mac is just a toy; the PC is a great computer because it runs games better.

Uh . . . okay. But I thought a toy was - oh, never mind.

I’m not one of those dorks who sneers at PCs, and even if I was I couldn’t match the vitriol poured on Microsoft & Windows from other PC users. What’s the biggest complaint people have about computers? TNeedless complexity, Feature bloat, bewildering idiosyncracies and overall mulish & cryptic nature. (As the layman sees it, anyway.) A friend at work, for example, uses a common MP3 player - one of those RealPlayer POS programs, I think. It also plays CDs. Whenever he inserts a CD, the program converts everything to MP3s and sprays the files on his desktop. He deletes them; the MP3 player still thinks they exist, and keeps a reference in his playlist. He’s tried to turn this off, but can’t figure out how, and so like most computer users he has learned to trash the files and live with the error messages, because he is too busy using the computer to figure out how to fix it. It’s a criminal abuse of the user, and reflects the general lack of panache that characterizes many Windows products. Say what you will about Jobs - and I think he’s a smug flaming egomaniacal jerk in oh so many ways - you get the sense that he insists that these programs be cool, goddammit, and they are. And by “cool” I mean they look right and run right. I’ve yet to meet any of these new Apple apps that didn’t behave exactly like I think it should.

These are things PC power users tend to forget, either because they don’t think they’re relevant, or they think that cosmetic and behavioral attributes should be secondary to price and speed. If the price was twice and the speed was half, I’d agree. But I’d rather sacrifice a small amount of speed on the processing side and gain time that would be otherwise spent FIGHTING THE MACHINE and the devil-spawned programs on it.

Finally: to repeat what I said yesterday, it’s a mistake to dismiss the Mac because it puts such a premium on the aesthetic experience. CRTs are ugly, no matter how you streamline the case, and I salute Apple for dumping them altogether. Today I read a blog that referred to Apple as “the IKEA of computing,” and I gathered this was a sneering critique. Well, I’ve been to IKEA, and they have miles and miles of good-looking furniture, lamps, and other items to make your home something more than a place to scratch yourself, void yourself, feed yourself and play Everquest. These same people sniff at a classic streamlined Crosley AM-FM radio because it looked too pretty and didn’t have shortwave. If you don’t mind ugly computers, fine, but just because others don’t find beauty incompatible with their definitions of utility it doesn’t mean we’re fools.

Plus: there are little lines in the OS X interface that are picked up in the subtle grey lines of my Apple monitor. I know it infuriates some that I notice that, let along LIKE it. But I do.

Oh, and Wolfenstein is coming out for the Mac. As is Doom 3.



Had an interview today with a local newspaper, a handsomely rendered community journal; they’re doing a little story on my Minneapolis web site. And so I got the chance to expostulate on urban archeology and urban studies, and babbled so much I’m sure I dug myself a deep hole and jumped in upside down with my pants off. I kept trying to put all my hopeless nostalgia in context, though. This very same journal had run an opinion piece by a downtown resident who vowed never to shop at the new Target store because it had displaced the old Physicians and Surgeons building. Well, let’s cut off our nose and our ears, and start ripping off the eyelids then: we’ll show our face what we think! The Target block is one of the more successful pieces of architecture downtown - certainly more beautiful than the ordinary old building it replaced - and now there’s a general store downtown for the first time in 15 years. This is good. Preservation often wants to freeze cities in time, never thinking that what comes next might exceed the utility of what it replaces. When old buildings are being torn down all the time, this is probably the mindset you need to fight your battles, but at the same time it’s an anti-urban view. Cities change. Good small things are lost for average big things, but that’s not a complete & regrettable loss. . I’m sad the small Times cafe was knocked down. I’m glad Target built a 40-story HQ on the site instead of running to the burbs. Once your downtown is nothing but funky coffee shops and boutiques, it’s just a petting zoo for the boho crowd, and a downtown has to be so much more than that.

Asked which building’s lost I mourned the most, I really couldn’t say. The Minnesota theater, probably - we’ll never see its like again. The expected answer is the Metropolitan, a huge Richardsonian Romanesque building knocked down for no real good reason, but I don’t like that style of building. All that rusticated stone and bulgy facades make me think of the Elephant Man. Inside, however, it was a building of astonishing grace - imagine a 15-story light court with floors made of translucent glass. It was amazing, the diamond in the lump of coal, and I wished I’d seen it. But what I lament the most are the buildings with no names and no defenders, the small old two-story buildings that gave downtown a sense of density. Now it’s a collection of towers clustered together in an empty plain of parking lots like Brits awaiting the Zulus. It’s odd: whenever I look at a 40 story building, I’m pretty sure that nothing all that interesting ever happens there. But when you look at the second floor above a row of shops, you imagine people living there, small lives in small rooms, a hundred simple stories for every window.

I also defended the suburbs, which I feel compelled to do, since most people who advocate for healthy cities and praise the benefits of density and tradition are boneheadedly contemptuous of people who do not share these ideas - or, if they share them, prefer not to suffer the downside, and merely wish to have a home that accomodates their view of how they choose to live. Fevered defenders of the urban ideal often seem to think that people in the suburbs live miserable, isolated lives relieved only by the grim snarling satisfaction that they’re not stuck in that hellhole of the big city. Everyone I know who lives in the suburbs loves where they live. That’s why they live there. The government did not put a gun to people’s heads and demand that they pack up, head out on these new-fangled freeways and get out of Dodge. If people leave a city, there’s a reason, and it behooves the city to find out what it was. Bad schools; small lots; taxes; crime; stupid civic leaders interested in patronage and extortion than governing - that’s why people leave. And they’re not going to come back because a light-rail line passes 15 blocks from their house. They’re certainly not going to impressed by urban theorists who want them to walk to the corner store every day and schelp home the groceries instead of driving to a big store and buying a week’s worth of foodstuffs. I did that for four years. I dreamed of a day when I could buy those big 24-roll packs of toilet paper instead buying a single roll every other day because I also had to carry beer, meat and milk.

Anyway. It was fun, and I did the whole interview while watching Gnat, who could not be placated by anything - not Ollie, not a box of crackers, not a frosty mug of Yo-J (“twice the sugar and half the vitamins of regular juice!”), not a slice of fine hand-shredded American cheese. But she said “bye” when the interviewer put on her coat, which was cute. After the interview I bundled her up and went to Southdale, the World’s First Mall, to find a particular swing tune I’d heard on the satellite Big Band music feed. I went to Sam Goody’s, which, its slogan to the contrary, had not got it. But they did have Beetlejuice Action Figures, in case you had a sudden need for the shrunken-head explorer who appears in the last afterlife scene. There was a guy at the counter buying a CD, and I noted the way he picked up the bag: it said he was trying very hard to pick up the bag in a way that didn’t tell anyone he was stoned. Why, just watch me pick up this bag in a non-stoned way, in the fashion familiar to all; there is nothing in my demeanor that suggests I got baked in the parking lot. Then he walked towards the door, and swung around the theft-detection pillars, and I could just hear his brain working overtime: damn! Damn! Why did I do that? Stupid! They can tell! He compensated once in the mall by looking around with exaggerated interest - see? See? If I were stoned, I wouldn’t be interested in this elevator, or that plant? Would I? I’m just casually walking around noticing things casually like non-stoned people do!

The cruel thing to do, of course, is to walk past the guy and say “man, are you high,” which would just paralyze him. Or perhaps say “rooty-toot parakeet clock face McMango” in a dead expressionless voice. Or bark, once.


Grr: at the Crate and Barrel store - which sells neither - they were playing the “Grease” soundtrack. The LIVE version, God help me, complete with washed-up singers pulling every tendon as they reached for the high notes. As I pushed the stroller around, thinking back to my highs chool days, I was filled with a renewed conviction that Grease was not the word, and had never been; lyrical protestations to the contrary, it was manifestly lacking both “style” and “meaning,” and what’s more Grease was not the way we are feeling, nor was it ever the way we were feeling. People who harbor any warmth towards the 70s forget the tyranny of Grease, that unholy conmingling of Frankie Vallie, Disco and strutting Sweathoggery.

An article in my very own paper the other day suggested, with snickering derision, than an 80s revival might be underway. The writer shaved all the maggots off her brisket o’ cliches and presented her ideas as freshly butchered insight: it was the Decade of Greed (as opposed to the unbridled altruism of the 90s), an age of bad hair (oh yes, please, I can’t wait for my sharp short haircut to grow out so I can leave it unwashed for a year and attain that lovely lank Valvoline-drenched Cobain coiffure), bad clothes (leg warmers, ankle socks trimmed with a filligree of lace, ripped-neck sweatshirts - yuk! Let’s all wear thrift-store flannel shirts or dress up like Cure-influenced necrophiliacs.) Criminey Joseph, will the 80s ever get a break? The 80s were necessary. The 80s were a cherry bomb thrown into the hashish den of the 70s. There’s a new Fox show that takes place in the 80s, and based on the music-video promos I don’t know if I’m supposed to think all these characters are ludicrous - I do know that I don’t. One brief image shocked me, and happily so - a man puts on a suit jacket and jams up the sleeves to his elbows. Hey! I did that! Sonny Crockett did it, so we all did it! The women’s outfits look dated, of course, but any het man with a pulse can’t argue against the allure, when done right. Even the music they used - Madonna’s “Dress You Up” - made me snap my fingers; it reminded me of the days when we all figured we’d be nuked soon, so there was a cultural imperative to have fun.

What “That 90s Show” will be like, I don’t know - grungers, goths, infantile pacifier-sucking ravers, soul-patched programmers hunched over computer keyboards. In so many ways the 90s struck me - even at the time - as an ongoing series of missed opportunities and squandered boon. Well, children, gather ‘round, and let me tell you about the 80s. We wore our sunglasses at night. We bitch-slapped the air to Kim Carnes songs. We put our collars up and we partied down. For all its faults it was a great time to be alive, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Grr. It is recycling tomorrow, as the phrase goes - “recycling” becomes an event, a high holy day: it is Christmas tomorrow! It is Easter tomorrow! It is recycling tomorrow! - so I have to drag out the bags. Since we missed the last recycling day, and we had parties between here and there AND a holiday, this means I look as if I’ve spent the last two weeks doing nothing but reading papers and pounding the liquor. Which reminds me: of all the bottles I’ve encountered, Maker’s Mark makes the best weapon: the neck feels right in your in grasp, and the bottle is solid enough to knock out whatever teak-noggined miscreant has got it comin’ to him. There’s a video game I’d like to see: Bar Brawl 2020. The weapons are all liquor bottles. Your powerups would be little Copenhagen tins and Jagermeister airplane-portion single-servs; you’d fight your way to the back room, where you’d fight a guy who had a pool cue in one hand, a jagged bottle of Shiner in the other,; he could spit shot glasses from his mouth, too, and he’d be hard to beat because he’d be too stupid to kill. The soundtrack would be all ZZTop and similarly stripped-down Texabilly bands. I’d much rather play that game than fight dragons.

Grrrrrrr: re yesterday’s ramblings on urbanism, a story in today’s paper detailed the retooling of a highway construction project here in the Cities. There’s a stupid intersection of I-35, which goes N-S, and Highway 62, an old E-W artery with two lanes each in either direction. They do not meet cute. For whatever reason, 62 winnows itself to one lane; the other lane is dedicated to those who wish to exit. (This being Minnesota, the land of civility, people do not bunch up at the point where the lane ends and shoulder their way into the other lane - they line in miles ahead of the point where the second lane drops off.) Every day this single lane moves at the speed of Pavarotti wading through a bog of cold gravy. A redesign was demanded, so they came up with a plan that remade the entire fusterclucked intersection - and it didn’t include a new lane. Same thing, just smoother. Well, the legislature raised hell, and there was much sniffing and carping about Politics entering the sacred & pristine realm of transit. End result: new design with an extra lane. And there was much rejoicing -

Except that my representative in the legislature (and a few other right-thinking souls) are complaining that the highway design - get this - is biased towards cars.

This is like complaining that brain surgeons have a bias towards the head. They want the new single lane to be dedicated to the bus. Now, I am a big fan of dedicated bus lanes, when possible. I am the Sworn Enemy of the new light rail system, because it is a preposterous waste of money; they could buy a fleet of buses and subsidize poor people’s transit for a quarter of the cost. I am in favor of lavishly funded public transportation that allows people in the inner cities to get to jobs in the outer cities, but everyone has the romantic attachment to the trolley, so ca-ching: one billion dollars liquified and poured down the rat hole. This is the worst place for a dedicated bus lane. It will just back up traffic (which increases pollution) and make everyone stare with hunger and fury at this pristine ribbon of concrete, unused save for the occasional half-empty bus rumbling along every ten minutes.

But that’s the point: to discourage people from driving. Because our chaff-headed solons think people should take the bus as a matter of principle, they are willing to screw the people who drive cars. And it doesn’t matter what reason people have to prefer cars to the bus - somewhere among those blinkered souls queing to merge there’s someone who could take the bus, really, and if can make his life miserable and force him onto a sticky stanky seat on the People’s Limosine, we’ll do it.

These people bring out my inner Robert Moses. Let my people drive!

Yay: Gnat’s favorite game is to put a finger to your sternum and say “uh-oh,” which is your cue to fall backwards with flailing hands and expressions of theatrical dismay. Seventeen months old, and she’s already learned her daddy is a pushover. For her, anyway. Always for her.

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