Driving around today I was listening to the XM comedy channel, and Dennis Miller was on. I haven’t heard such labored allusions since Zeus popped that chick out of his forehead. (Get it? Labored?) It must take guts to stand up and make allusions no one gets; it takes bravery to be the smartest guy not only in the room but rooms not yet built. (Which would turn out to be entertainment facilities in Indian casinos, alas.) He made a joke about something being as obscure as Omar Sharif seeing the well, or some such reference to “Lawrence of Arabia.” Scattered chuckles. “That was a rather lean response,” he said.
Wow. I mean, it’s one thing to go for a Lawrence of Arabia joke, but it's another thing entirely to follow up with a wordplay that requires a knowledge of the movie’s director as a means of explaining the previous joke’s failure. It required that the audience uppercase "lean" within a half-second of hearing the word. That's brave. It’s like he was doing a routine For The Ages. Someday, they will pore over the transcripts, and say: ah. There was a man. I admired it. Didn’t laugh, but I admired it. Then he followed with a bit about one of the members of Guns ‘n’ Roses being kicked out of the band, and the audience screamed. It was very funny, but typical Milller: it made a passing reference to a 90s porn star who later committed suicide, and because it's Miller, you don't know if the bit was from 1996, or whether it's 2006 and he expects you to get decade-old dead porn-star references. (Obviously, I did, but, uh, here's why! Esquire did a story on the actress, and I remember sitting in the local library in the afternoon on a miserable winter day, cold and wet, and thinking: well, it could be worse; I could be a dead drug-addicted unenthusiastic sex worker. That was in February. In March, it's a toss-up.) In any case, the audiences' sense of relief at getting a joke was almost as great as the sound of their amusement. Compare that to the laughter in the Tom Lehrer live album - the performer is smart enough to play his piano using only his mind, but his lines are neat and dry, and the red glow of his intellect is apparent in his voice more than his words. Until he starts to sing, of course. The man was a brilliant parodist, the dead-perfect synthesis of a Harvard intellect and a fourteen-year-old boy's id.
Not to get into the merits of Lehrer and or Miller; it's just an interesting comparison. And I say that merely to justify the previous paragraphs. I have no idea why I wrote any of that.
A light day today, and before you think I’m slacking off on my obligation to provide bushels of tripe, I have a large update to the Fargo site. Joy, you say; o joy. Well, as I feel compelled to mention, defensively, each week, with a trace of sullen irritation that endears me to no one, this is actually about old downtowns and Main streets, and how urban environments change. This episode in particular has some stuff you gar-an-teed won’t find anywhere else, and it makes the past snap into focus, albeit with lots of film noise due to the source material. But you’ll see what I mean.
I also have something else of note. This afternoon I had some time to visit the neighborhood antique store, an amazing place that turns over its stock and redoes the booths about every 72 hours, as far as I can tell. It’s a museum, and everything’s for sale. Cool. I found some matchbooks, a pamphlet for a nerve tonic I’ll post soon, a color newspaper supplement that will provide at least three Bleat graphics, recipe books for the next Gallery, and a newspaper that could not be scanned without destroying it. Or at least ripping it up. As soon as I saw one half I knew what it was about, and I had to have it. See if you can figure out the story:
The newspaper is the Twin City Reporter, a high-horse moralizing rag I’d never heard of before. And I mean moralizing. You’ll see what I mean tomorrow.
After the antique store I picked up Gnat; off to Target. The dollar section has introduced a series of items listed as “Two for Five Dollars.” Thus the clear simple concept of the dollar section is broken, never to be repaid. From now on, people will check the price. Stupid. They were also out of the Q-tip refill pack that fits snugly in the plastic dispensers, so I had to make do with a children’s refill kit, which was identical except for the label. When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around. I also bought “Tire Wet,” which just sounds embarrassing, and a new mop to replace the old new mop. It was a Michael Graves mop. I trust the mechanical aspects were not personally supervised by the noted architect, since the damn thing didn’t work – you turned the handle to wring out the mop, and the absorbent portion shot out and danged on a hook, like Spongebob performing the last minutes of “Braveheart.” Now I face a new problem heretofore unconsidered: the mop does not match the bucket. The bucket, you see, has a Michael Graves handle and a Michael Graves contour. Better than the Frank Gehry bucket I used to have – it leaked – or the Philip Johnson bucket, which could only be used if you were whitewashing reputations. Even though it was far too tall and thin, I liked the Mies van der Rohe bucket, but every time I took it out of the closet I knocked over the little piece of sculpture sitting in front of it.
Well, that paragraph didn’t bring the Bauhaus down. That went over like a hipped roof at a Richard Meier retrospective.
We had a burger at Wendy’s, then drove home. Passed the neighborhood hardware store; one of the owners was saddling up in his Harley. We’d spoken on Sunday about the weekly ride he had with other local Harley owners, and sure enough, there were four beeyootiful steeds at the curb. I honked and gave him the thumbs up, the sound and gesture meant to refer back to our conversation 72 hours before. He looked up, saw me, grinned and returned the thumb. When you think of it, that’s quite a remarkable piece of information storage-and-retrieval, but it’s the sort of thing we do all the time on the fly. I cannot begin to think how they’d write that sort of thing into an artificial intelligence. Even if they could, the android wouldn’t have the same feeling I did: it’s a small town, here. I love it, and I’m not leaving.
Of course, talk to me in March.
Okay, here’s the second part of the paper.
Got it? The rest comes tomorrow. In the meantime, have some Fargo, on me. (After you've Quirked, of course.) Trust me. You'll like it.