The Tivo, for reasons I do not yet understand, is rebooting itself, as if it feels soiled and needs to clease its circuits. The last time it did this it went back to channel 4, which is CBS. Gnat is a few feet away, coloring in her new book of saccharine puppy pictures.

The picture snaps on, the volume returns.

“This really pisses me off,” says the guy on the screen. “Son of a bitch.”

Oh, I know. I’m such a bluenose, and as is typical with the species, a hypocrite. Why, I’ve used those words myself, therefore I should have no problem with them popping up casually on a broadcast channel. The world cannot be draped in a gauzy filter to protect the ears of children, and we can’t infantilize Reality just because some parents make the mistake of leaving the TV set to a broadcast channel while the TiVo reboots with kids in the room. It’s Puritanism like that that keeps brave clever sitcom writers from slipping “b*llsh!t” into their timeless japes, and censorious fools like me who drove brave truth-tellers like Howard Stern from the public square.

There; that about covers it, no? While watching “24” I never once noticed the lack of cursing. (And to repeat: I like a good curse. It has the same purging relief as a burst of compacted wind, and has the same place in public society.) If ever there was someone who deserved to curse in broadcast prime time, it was Jack Bauer. But  the absence of cursing never stood out, because interesting people were saying and doing interesting things, and that tends to hold one’s attention.

At Target today I was wheeling the cart past the athletic department, en route to flashlights; there were three boys banging basketballs around. (All white, for those who comb through these installments for flaming racism.) There was a good deal of EmmEffing, which is the most dreary of curses. If you hear it twice in 30 seconds, there’s a good chance it’s the only four-syllable word the speaker knows. Well, I had a small child present. They saw us. They EmmEffed.

“Hey,” I said. Pointed at Gnat. “Language.”

And they actually looked abashed. Some residual shame, then. Good. Could have been worse.

The Target store was disappointing – all the new “summer” stuff is rather ugly, but that’s a topic for a Quirk. (It’s frustrating, sometimes – I file everything away as Bleat or Quirk material, and since the Quirk maw must be fed daily to earn my keep, I’ll take topics I know would be a good 500-word Bleat entry and squeeze them down into the 275-word Quirk format.) (Yes, woe is me, such problems.) The entire store annoys me now, because it’s a pawn in a suburban redevelopment saga. This area grew up around Southdale,  the country’s  first true enclosed mall. Southdale has hit a hard patch, frankly. The owner, a nationwide property holding company, took it in the shorts last year and lacks the money for upgrades. The last overhaul of Southdale was a decade ago. It lost an anchor department store a few years ago, and nothing has filled the spot. The hallways dead-end; the retail mix is thin. The Mall of America, its closest competitor, recently announced a new addition the size of Lichtenstein, and that doesn’t help.  To the south are blocks and blocks of retail that grew up in Southdale’s aura; one is upscale & healthy, one is a strip-mall that just got a face-lift, and in between there’s Target. Given the rich demographics of the area, Target would like to raze the store and build a gigantor UberHyperTarget with a grocery store and twice the shelf space and a petting zoo and underground NASCAR track, etc. But! The city wants to upgrade the entire area, make it a new downtown with the usual pedestrian amenities. This means bisecting the aforementioned blocks with a “spine” that connects dead old Southdale with the housing to the south.

Here’s the catch: the new store Target wants to build does not sufficiently respect the spine. The city says: we’d like you to put affordable housing facing the spine, please. Target says: uh, we sell laundry soap and shoes and batteries; we’re not exactly in the housing business. The city says: you are now. And so the latest proposal to build the new Target was rejected. Rejected! New Urbanism, triumphant!

The idea of the “spine” is to get people out of their cars, of course, but the immediate effect is not only to keep me in my car, but make me drive 15 additional miles to get to the good Target in Eden Prairie.  Don’t get me wrong – I support these efforts to reshape the suburban shopping areas; the area of which I speak would make a perfect demonstration of how NOT to build a suburb. It’s just amusing to see the impact of these excruciating local politics on the high-flown ideas. It will drag on for a year or two – and in the meantime, the empty storefronts in the adjacent strip mall, emptied out by Target in preparation for the new construction, stand empty, blaring out a message of decline and abandonment.

On the other hand, I’m certain someone has a 20-year plan that envisions light rail connecting the spine to downtown St. Paul, so people can take a 90 minute train ride to visit the fargin’ Cheesecake Factory. Sigh.

For those who care, I am still watching “Firefly.” Saw “Jaynesville,” which was a nice example of how to make the good-bad guy character grow, somewhat, without changing at all. Then I watched “Out of Gas,” which took place entirely on the ship, one of those “bubble episodes” that go easy on the budget. Could have been bad – flashbacks! backstory! – but the pleasure of this show is how everything that could be bad usually isn’t, and often ends up superior. There's not a single episode that doesn't make me love this show again before the opening credits, and rue its end when the closing credits roll.

And now to work – it never ends. Water Feature update tomorrow! Stay tuned. And thanks for stopping by.

Oh, one more thing, before I forget: I dreamed I got free movie tickets to attend a premier. The movie: “The Suicide of Kenny G, directed by Martin Scorcese.” The movie, not the suicide.

It wasn’t very good. And the soundtrack was horrible.



c. j lileks. email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.