I hope you like the new look, since it’s going to be around for a while. No more weekly redesigns until the first book’s done, so this should last through March. It’s certainly cheerful enough. JFK greets the new day, happily oblivious to the imminent end of planet earth now that the sun has become self-aware and moved perilously close to our fragile world.

Other versions of the site were more complex, and larded up the sidebar with extraneous widgetry – but then I remember my rule: never put on my blog something I don’t like or don’t use when I visit other sites. That’s why there’s a smallish ad for my books instead of a nine-mile long trail of hideous pictures. (Internet ads are often as ugly as they are ubiquitous, and eternal. The bald man made of raw hamburger who wanted to save us all from the perils of weight training seems to have left the internet, and I don’t see much of the poor young woman who cannot date another liberal guy -  she looks like she’s screaming in pain from the red-hot coal in her mouth – but the mysterious boneless dancing lowermybills.com silhouettes are still infesting various sites. They’re horrible things. They’re like shadows come to life, but they’re not flat; you know they’re round and shiny and would gush black fluid if you poked them.)

I’ve also had to trim back the weekly updates, but there will still be some. Just not as much. But! And this is big: the long-awaited Computer Programmer Matchbook T-shirt is finally for sale. Details to follow at the bottom of the page.

Saturday I paid another visit to Target. I was driving past, and it was the last day. They might have sales. They did. Selected items of women’s clothing were reduced 90%, which was a great help. Sigh. They did have a few dollars off an alarm clock, though, and I love alarm clocks. Clocks and radios – basic idea, infinite variation.
I found a small unit that tied an iPod into the alarm, so you could wake to particular songs. Perfect! It’s one of the few aspects of daily life I haven’t customized. For a while I was using an ancient laptop to play selected songs, but the speakers were poor and the size ungainly. This would do nicely. I picked it up and walked over around, giving the store one last look. I also had a personal motive that might strike you as amusing, pathetic, or both: my newspaper column that morning had said farewell to the store, and given a nod to Dale, the cheerful & sarcastic guy in the wheelchair who knew where everything was. I’ve mentioned him before. People might think he’s slow because of his speech, and I’m not sure of the nature of his disability – cerebral palsy seems likely, but I don’t know enough to say. He has extremely limited mobility, operates the chair with a joystick, and loves his work.

I have to confess I wanted to know if he’d seen it.  Well. I was walking along the main north aisle, and an employee – 30s, female - asked if I was finding everything I wanted. I said I was fine, held up the box, and said “paying my last respects.”

“We appreciate that,” she said. “And we appreciated the words this morning. They read the article at the morning meeting and everyone laughed and got choked up, and it was very nice.”

All of a sudden I am very choked up (hell, I’m choked up now writing this) and I thanked her very much and said I’d  see her at the next store and went to another aisle and blinked a lot until I had control of my ducts again. Then I went to the other side of the store to get some napkins, and came upon Dale, talking to some customers. He handed them a piece of paper and they read it and laughed and said “you’re famous now, Dale.”

He’d made the paper.

This had nothing to do with my byline; it had everything to do with the medium. When you make the paper, you’re city-wide, all day long. TV is nice, but TV is a running stream, and the moment it’s done with you something else fills your place. When you finish reading a newspaper story about someone you know, the story’s still there, right in your hands; you can fold it up and put it away, you can read it again, you can pass it to someone else, and all day when you pass the newspaper boxes or see the paper in the stores, you know the story’s there. It has presence. It’s a persistent, physical medium, and has no peers. Those who cheer its demise – as opposed to its rehabilitation – are shortsighted, to say the least. Towns need papers.  I don’t mean to prop up a strawman; most critics of the papers don’t want them to vanish, and if newspapers do die it’ll be suicide, not murder. But much of the criticism boils down to “JUMP!” in tenor and intent.

Watched “The Black Dahlia.” Urgh. Gaah. It’s a bad movie, but it takes a while to show itself. It gets it right, at first. Feels like Ellroy noir, and it’s helped along by one of those rue-soaked scores with lush ripe strings and the Loneliest Trumpet in Los Angeles, gently urging our heroes to their inevitable doom. But the first thing it screws up beyond repair is the discovery of the Black Dahlia. You know, the central mystery of the movie? The crime was remembered not just because its tabloid appeal, but for the horrific crime scene. Remember when they found the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz? Like that. Her all over, to put it bluntly. I’m not suggested the movie should have lingered on the grotesqueries committed to the body, but you hardly see a corpse at all – and since this is the crime that supposedly motivates the protagonists to tumble down into the madlands below,  you don’t connect the crime with the characters or their passions. Then there's the matter of narrative incoherence – the body’s discovery occurs in the middle of a sequence devoted to another incomprehensible plot-point, and the discovery is promptly tossed away in favor of a shootout, after which DePalma gets around to re-discovering the body.

The denouement is laughable – one of the suspects shows up on a balcony and channels the Python’s cross-dressing biddies. Whether she is Mrs. Premise or Mrs. Conclusion is hard to tell, but we do get to see our intrepid hero bring down a gigantic chandelier with a single pistol shot during the course of the interrogation. All in all, a great book squandered by a hack. Yes, he's shot a few interesting things now and again, but "Dahlia" proves the million-monkey theory applies to film as well as Shakespeare. One more thing: everyone's smoking in this movie, but no one knows how to smoke. It's hard to explain,

When it was finished I checked he TiVo, and discovered it had preserved an HD version of “The Andromeda Strain,” one of the few movies I have to watch if it’s on. But only the middle part. The minute it turns into Angry Doc. Vs. the Anti-Monkey Lasers, it’s less interesting. Almost impossible to believe that the movie was made 36 years ago. Thirty six years! And it still has a high-tech sheen, probably thanks to the profusion of aluminum. I was 13 when I saw it, and aside from the score – a creepy and effective piece of electronic music – I was most impressed by the technology. It was good to know such things existed already. (Surely there was a real Wildfire buried somewhere, with curving walls and color-coded floors and central computer libraries and doors that automatically slid open when you approached.) Those of us who marinated in these things in our youth grew up in a state of constant impatience, waiting for the things we knew were possible to be invented. Hardly any technological innovation would surprise us. Not even replicators or faster-than-light ships. The only thing that wouldn’t make us say “well, duh” is a 900-foot Jesus reappearing in Jerusalem. Didn’t see that one coming.

I didn’t make it all the way through, since it was very late, but like I said: I always find something new. This time it was the alarm that wakes Angry Doc from his slumbers; it’s a disembodied female voice that says “time to wake up, sir” in various intonations. It’s not as alluring to my ears as it is to Angry Doc, but given the chime that accompanies her gentle reminder, it does make a nice alarm sound. So I got out the DVD, found the scene, trimmed out the dialogue, looped it, and put it on the iPod alarm clock. Since it refers to a “sir,” it’ll have to be Alarm Setting Two.

Upon imdb’ing the movie (again) I noted that Arthur Hill, the actor whose lead scientist character should be honored as the great geek godfather, died last October at the age of 84.  He's on the left.


To quote Magnus Pyke in Thomas Dolby’s song: SCIENCE! Those are faces of scientists who are pissed that an atomic bomb wasn't dropped.

Don’t know how I missed this, but one scene has a fellow whose role is described as “Bearded Surgeon.”

More than anyone else involved with the project, he made a bazillion dollars. Michael Crichton himself:

The alarm sound is here, if you’d like to use it. (900K mp3.) But first, visit the merchandise page – and buy that T-shirt! I want to see someone wear this at the grocery store next spring – or next October, when the Target opens. If nothing else, you'll enjoy clicking the "return to main menu" button, which reveals an entirely new front page for the site. Year Eleven. Wow.

New Match & Quirk, this being Monday. Thanks for the visit, and I’ll see you tomorrow.