I heard some of the confirmation hearings for the new SecDef and was impressed, providing they’ve changed the name of the office to the Secretary of Deference. I think they should have pressed him to list all the other countries he opposed “attacking” just so everyone’s clear and we can begin the new year on the same page.

The Bush doctrine has been dead for some time, but this was the funeral oration. I don’t believe in “rope-a-dope,” and I don’t believe in the miraculous Israeli strike, and I don’t think the momentum can be reversed. It’s as if we invaded France and spent three years getting their government back on their feet before proceeding to Berlin. Given this, the debate over the ISG’s recommendations is rather superfluous, but the report does tell you where some people’s heads have become permanently socketed. Thanks to Captain Ed, who provided the following excerpt:

Syria’s full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework for
Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.

• Syria’s full cooperation with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik
Hariri and Pierre Gemayel.

• A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel’s problem with Hezbollah.)

• Syria’s use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollah for the release of the captured Israeli Defense Force

• A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine the democratically elected government of Lebanon.

All conducted under the watchful eyes of Unicorns, of course. Imagine a government report on organized crime, demanding the following:

* The Mafia’s full adherance to the RICO and IRS statutes concerning independent contractors, including but not limited to Social Security contributions, FICA regulations, as well as compliance with state and federal laws concerning murder, extortion and kidnapping

* The Mafia’s full cooperation with all investigations into the deaths of Artie “Two Sheds” Palini, Ricky “The Squid” Piscatori, Jackie the Gaspipe, Tommy Shoes, and 16,302 others

* A verifiable cessation of Mafia contributions to local law enforcement officials

* The Mafia should use its influence with the Russian and Irish mobs to find out what the hell happened to that poor guy who wandered into the back room when they were all having a sit-down

* A verifiable cessation of Mafia efforts to undermine and circumvent the laws in the states of New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Chicago, as well as Nevada and portions of Kansas City which Johnny Mook swears he has no control over, but some of those hits just have his style written all over them

If those things are done, well, the price of garbage hauling in selected municipalities might decrease. But I wouldn’t count on them happening, and I certainly wouldn’t argue that we should give the Mafia Staten Island in the hopes some age-old territorial grievance will be settled for good.

Happy infamy day, by the way.

Shades of long ago: I’m at the office coffee shop. Not staring out the window, though – I needed an outlet, so I’m sitting in a comfy chair sheathed in a pseudo-Miro design. It’s cloudy outside with small irrational patches of bright blue, and it’s snowing. Forty flakes, no more, swirling around like the souls of the damned. Hump day at the paper.

I mentioned yesterday that I had a box of dead people, and of course I meant old family photos. Or rather slides. I hate slides; everyone hated slides. Slides meant getting out the screen, slides meant dragging out the projector (Kodak, metal, heavy as an anvil and hot as a stove) and sitting through an endless procession of pictures of people you just saw last week, sitting around drinking coffee or standing in the backyard as though they were applying for membership in the Tree Club. Everyone stood straight and still and didn’t smile. Sunday-best outfits. Them’s not your smilin’ clothes, son; those are for takin’ pitchers. In the wrong mood those slides can break your heart, though. Everyone in the box is gone or very old. Not all have lost their vim; my dad and a few of his cohorts still crackle with vitality. My dad looks carved from wood in most of the pictures, though; the uncles, caught in various social gatherings, have the look of men who have given up their struggle with some strange mysterious force determined first to bring them to the sofa, and, decades later, plant them a bit deeper below. None of them knows as much as I do now, and it feels almost indecent to look them in the eyes and not tell them.

There are a few details, though.

The Gals after a party at our house. It wasn’t called a party, of course; it was having company. Or having company over. That’s what they wore in those days, and that’s what they did an hour or so before the gala broke up: they cleaned, and dished, and laughed and cackled throaty smoker’s chuckles, and left tiny heel-circles in the linoleum. Looking through the pictures reminds me where I got my interest in the design of the 50s and early 60s, or better yet, why I’m interested – it’s the usual predictable attempt to go home, again.

Behold: turquoise formica. Trust me, it’s boomerang-patterned. Add the blond wood with the modern counter hardware and the beloved chrome-handled Frigidaire, still the most beautiful appliance I have ever known, and you have the basics. But there's more, in every shot.




A detail of your host, from a picnic picture:


Red Owl potato chips. That big, angry, frightening owl. Come to peck your eye out, he was.

Several slides show my dad’s trucks; the picture no doubt celebrates the new purchase, the growing business. It looks like Alaska:

The middle of the continent in the middle of the century. Sometimes the photos reveal more than the photographer intended. For example, there's this:

Two uncles, my father on one end, and . . . oh, my God.


There he is, a red blot on a tiny slide that slumbered for 44 years in a box. The box was in the basement; then the box was in my closet. I took a crack at scanning a few slides a few years ago, but the task was too daunting. Now I am the Undauntable Archivist, determined to assemble the entirety of my family's visual records by the end of the year, and I find this guy. The original Lileks. The grandfather I never knew.

Side note: I may be wrong, but I think all three of the men were pilots. The man in the red BVDs entered the country penniless, and in one generation his sons were in the sky.


The pictures of me are unimpressive, as pictures of one’s self as a small child always are. Oh, so that’s me? Guess it is. Huh. Nevertheless, they do make certain memories pop out. I’m standing in my grandmother’s bedroom; behind me is her bed, purchased in the 40s at Bergstrom and Crowe. It will pass into my hands in the 80s, follow us to DC, and end up in someone else’s apartment in 1994, a half century after Grandma first laid down upon it. There’s a lamp I recall, a vase, some TV dinner trays (kept in the corner of the living room, almost as an item of actual furniture, and I suppose they were; they were the smart thing to have, after all), my beloved red plastic briefcase I took to first grade.

The scanner, unfortunately, only does one slide at a time. There are about 200 slides. Suffice to say I’m editing out some third-tier relatives.

More later; back to my desk, to do something or other. Look busy. Or write another column; heck, why not.

Later. Home. Feeling odd all night; tired and a bit schmozzled. It may be the weather, with is just bitchtastically vile (snow I can take. Snow I welcome and celebrate. But this is just vacant molar-acheing cold with wind, and has nothing to recommend it.) After the office I went to the grocery store, since I had to pick up ingredients for Gnat’s Girl Scouts assignment: popcorn balls. The most enduringly inedible of all seasonal treats. (Fruitcake is not a treat.) I went home, took a sweet little nap for 20 mintues, got up, made supper, and was clearing the table when I noted the recipe list for popcorn balls, and remembered: I hadn’t gotten the ingredients. I’d gotten everything but. So I ran back to the grocery store, got the stuff, headed home, shivering and cussing. Spent the night scanning more slides. Here’s Dad at the kitchen table, photographed for reasons uncertain; maybe he had come down with a case of Chameolinitis and was starting to blend into the wallpaper again. He has a newspaper in his hand; what does it say? Surely it’s the announcement that the Rose Petal Parade will now be daily at noon; milk will be free, and a bar of gold passed out to all heads of households on the first of the month.



Ah. Yes. Well. The Bay of Pigs. Well, at least we learned our lesson. Talk strong and act irresolute , and the situation will resolve itself. Neatly and quickly. It's not like Cuba ever troubled us again.

New happy Quirk, of course, and an eight-page money update. See you tomorrow.