it rings!


Well, I could have spent more time on the Bleat design this week, but I didn't. Spent Friday night scanning stuff for two new projects, one of which blows up 1940s New York City news photos to find interesting commonplace details now long gone or forgotten; the other is a nostalgic look at computer promotional photography from the 1960s, and how they always managed to work a sexy Mary-Richards type into the announcement of a new advance in punchcard storage. Very geeky, and it will no doubt provoke spasms of nostalgia among those who really, really know their mainframes. I don't, and I get a little misty just looking at the pictures. There's something about a computer that takes up half the room that commands your respect

Quiet night – it’s actually the weekend when I’m writing this, since I have a four pieces due Monday morning and that means Sunday lashed to the mast. The rest of the family is at a church retreat – Gnat was initially horrified to hear it was Church related, until I said it would be more like Sunday School than Church. “No standing and sitting down,” I reassured her.


She had envisioned a solid weekend of church service, which does not exactly fire a child’s imagination. Never did much for me; I amused myself in church, like so many other bored 12 year olds, making up words for the liturgy. Instead of “blessed be he who commeth in the name of the Lord,” I’d mumble “breakfast for he who commeth in the middle of the night,” which would get me an elbow from my friend Peter. (Now a pastor.) I know how some take comfort in the invariable progress of the liturgy, the stately progression of the modules – now sing, now listen, now stand, now sit – for me it was always like picking up the paper and seeing the same front page every day.

They just called to say goodnight; Gnat was bouncing off the wall. They swam in the pool and went to a bonfire and made soap and sandbottles and there are three friends from choir and she misses me. So how have I spent my night of freedom? Took a nap – expected to sleep an hour or two, since I stayed up late (watched “The Addams Family,” which is really a wonderful movie; aside from a few missteps, like the cringe-inducing musical accompaniment as they go down the slide to the vault – it’s a clever film that loves its source material too much to treat it like camp. I mean, you have to love these characters to do the movie right; you have to admire Gomez as the epitome of joie de vivre and you have to admit that Morticia is, conceptually, pretty smokin’, in that set-you-on-fire-while-you-sleep sort of way. [If they could have combined Carolyn Jones’ beauty with Anjelica Huston’s combustible suggestiveness, it would have been perfect.] The morbidity of the clan is bone deep but somehow superficial – except for Wednesday, who puts her parents’ esprit de corpse in perspective. In any case, I love the movie. MAMOUSHKA!) (And what is it with Barry Sonnenfeld and credits that use the typeface from “Dr. Strangelove”? I count two so far.)

(I should note that the second Addams family was a huge disappointment – labored and preachy. On the other hand, the pinball machine inspired by the first was a tremendous table; I pushed that thing all around the room at the 1992 Republican convention. It was in the break room. Yes, I had high score.) (final note: one of the stupidest trends in movies is the uncharacteristic “pop” song over the closing credits; in the case of “The Addams Family,” it’s a rap by M. C. Hammer in which he manages to insert the phrase “too legit” into a disquisition on the Addams clan.)

During the typing of the previous paragraph Gnat called three times to wish me goodnight again, and read me a bedtime story. “I just can’t stop missing you!” she said. Man, I hope her dis-the-rents phase isn’t too long or too deep; it’ll kill me. Sharper than a serpent’s tooth and all that.

(Grotesque shift in tone ahead)

Or literally kill me – we had a case in a tony burb where a kid plotted to kill his parents, and succeeded in having his accomplice shoot his mother to death. The agony the father must feel is unimaginable. When the motive was finally revealed, it was unutterably banal: the conspirators intended to use the insurance money to move to Amsterdam “and open a café,” as the story put it. That’s all you needed to know. Stupid useless dopers. Subsequent stories talked about how the kid used to be a good kid, but had trouble in college, and had been using marijuana – as though the last two items moved in a parallel track, disconnected, occasionally intersecting at finals time. Sounds like a good kid who had the usual problems, smoked some weed in his newly emancipated life, and had it derail everything. Everything. It’ll happen. You’re unhappy, you get high, the music’s INCREDIBLE all of a sudden and pizza is AMAZING and your friends are as cool as you are, but Sunday morning lands on your head like a bell tossed off the Notre Dame carillion: this is not who you are, this is not how you meet girls – any girls around last night? No – and these are not the people you want to be like. You’re ashamed, you resolve to be better, and you can’t wait to do it again. Six hours later you’re watching an old Dragnet on TV and telling each other that Jack Webb HAD to be high when he made this.

I’m not blaming the drug. If the kid’s guilty, he’s guilty, not an herb. But just as not everyone who drinks turns into a sullen dull-eyed violent brute, not everyone who smokes grass becomes a happy mellow tallish shod Hobbit. But I will say this: drunks kill people in the heat of the moment. Stoners come up with plots to kill people and escape to Amsterdam, where you can get high without worrying that that guy over at the next table knows your dad or something. I mean, he’s looking at you. Maybe we should like go to Turkey. They have hash and they're totally cool about it unless you smuggle. It's like a custom over there, like wine with meals

(Note: I am in favor of medicinal marijuana. Someone’s going through chemo, I don’t think society will crumble if you given them a joint, headphones and a CD of Beethoven’s 9th.)

Later. Very later. Early, actually - threeish. The house is quiet now; I had the obligatory play-music-loud period I enjoy when the family’s out. Poor dog: oh cripes, the Battle in the Mutara Nebula again. If F. Scott was right, and it’s always 3 AM in the dark of the soul, well, it’s not an entirely unpleasant place to be. Nothing is necessary, trials are as remote as they are imminent, and if you find yourself adequate company then you’re not at a loss for companionship. Bed now, just because I should.


Note: now it’s Sunday night; everyone’s back, but the breathless recitation of my afternoon outing with The Big Swede will have to wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, the Matchbook is new, as is the Screedblog and Quirk. Motels tomorrow, as they say.)

on Monday
on Tuesday


c. 2005 j. lileks