A good weekend, but inconclusively productive. Finished a new T-shirt / Mug design; found a ton of stuff that needed scanning for the book. Whee; ha. I’d feel better about accomplishing less if  . . . well, if I’d accomplished more.

And that sums up my state of mind at the moment. Late at night and the big king-hell Monday awaits, with two more pieces due than usual. So let’s see. What to add? Charming Gnat anecdote? Sure. She decided to form a club. Kids love clubs. It began as the Cotton Candy Club, but on Saturday it became the Unicorn Club. Bylaws and activities were drawn up; a banner was made and hung over the entrance of her room, with streamers. On Sunday friends were invited over, and membership was opened to all.

Sorry, my heart’s not in this. I don’t know why. No, I do: I have been banished. My wife is working on a big project, and she’s at te kitchen table, working on a laptop, at night. That’s my turf. I have been relegated to my office, and it reminds me how little I write up here these days. The distractions are innumerable; I stare at the big screen and lose focus immediately. It doesn’t help that I installed a Twitter reader, and now there’s a pane in the lower left-hand corner informing me that someone in Tokyo is going to bed. (On the other hand, Twitter just popped up a link to this, which is rather cool.) Earlier tonight I got lost in one of those YouTube journeys that ended with a  short dim video of two kids in a suburban living room breakdancing with such fury that one of them passed a particularly sharp report from his hindquarters. He gave the camera the finger. YouTube gave me the option of playing the video again, or sharing it. Neither option seemed sufficient.

I’m in agreement with this post by Dean Barnett about Dinesh D’Souza’s book. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard some lengthy interviews, and they left me unmoved. Short version: the West is partially to blame for inflaming the Islamists, because we’re so gosh-dang jiggy. It’s part of the 2007 plan by conservatives to utterly self-destruct in the public mind. The plan’s quite clear: Squishy left-wing branch of the party, you guys bug out, declare Iraq a defeat and come up with something new – say, Muscular Withdrawalism – and lose the security-minded voters. You guys on the cultural conservative wing, double down and screw your heads into your navel and try to convince everyone that Mohammed Atta was driven over the edge by the news that Showtime had bought the pilot for “The L Word.” Centrists? Stand right there and enjoy the peace and calm of the hurricane’s eye.

Of course, it’s not gay marriage that enflames the Islamists. Heterosexual marriage enflames them, if the wife gets to drive and leave the house without a black sack covering her naughty bits, like her shameful wrists or noses. (Nostrils: Satan’s Whore-Portals!) Take a look around, check the latest things to which the more aggravated folk object: dogs, because their saliva is Unclean; passengers in a cab who have a bottle of Shiraz, because alcohol is Forbidden, and now cigarettes. Dogs, liquor and smokes. I can see  not trusting someone who doesn’t like one of those. All three? Deal’s off.  

These are the acts of the extreme believers, not the majority, but in the end that’s irrelevant. The extremists are accommodated and the moderates undercut. It buys a day's peace, but it worsens everyone's tomorrows.

The person who doesn’t want to sell cigarettes should be sacked. The law, unfortunately, prohibits firing someone who’s already sacked, so to speak: the clerk was in full swaddle. According to the management, the customer should have realized that she couldn’t get 20 Lambert and Butlers. (It’s an English thing, referring to cigarettes by quantity;  has to do with the same of half-packs, I think. In America all cigarettes come in packs of 20. When we were young, listening to Monty Python routines on the record, it stuck out: “go down to the store and get me 20 Rothmans.” Years later I bought some at a tobacconists, and actually asked for “20 Rothmans,” just to be Worldly. Worst cigarette I ever had, next to Balkan Sobrainies, also known as The Smoke of Bitter Pain.) (The ones in the white metal tin, not the black one.) (For those who no longer smoke but regard the habit with nostalgia: Luc Sante understands.)

Anyway, it was the customer’s fault.  The customer didn’t get the memo: assume devout Muslims will not sell cigarettes. But assume nothing else, I guess. Thus the virtues of tolerance and multiculturalism, intended to construct that gorgeous mosaic in which everyone holds hands and smiles at the common future, ends up codifying a tiered society that imposes the values of the least tolerant on the most. It seems as if the cultural commissars believe there is a magic point at which the culmulative amount of prostration, apologies and accomodations will satisfy the ranters, the plotters, the seethers, the madmen who live to hate and hate that we live. But the extremists won't be happy until the Queen wears a veil - and the next day they'll demand she give up the Corgis. Unclean.

Dean points out that the father of modern Islamist overreaction, Sayyid Qutb, visited America in 1948, which was not exactly a time of public thongs and cone-teated Madonnas. But I think he underestimates the true depravity of 1948, especially when you consider the number one song. It’s all about brazen female immodesty.

If you’re not worried about corrupting yourself, here it is. Safe for work. For now! No wonder they hate us. Listen closely: she mentions underwear.

TV? Why, yes! Watched “Idiocracy,” which is thin but clever. Last night I watched “The Illusionist,” and enjoyed it. Loved it, actually. Self-conscious and art-directed down to the smallest jot, but the story had enough spine and the acting was sufficient. Paul Giametti played the Kindliest Javert with all his trademark tics – hey, he just mashed his lips together and rolled his eyes while lowering his head, indicating repression and disappointment! Didn’t see that coming. But I’ve never seen a movie in which I wasn’t grateful for his appearance. Edward Norton I can’t figure out – why, exactly, is he a movie star? Liked him fine in “Fight Club,” but he just looks like Gary Oldmam and T. Coraghessan Boyle had a baby.

For once the Philip Glass score didn’t annoy me, even though the lyrics might as well consist of “teeter totter” repeated ad infinitum. Someone should do a Philip Glass concert, play all his works,  and have a massive choir sing Teeter Totter for nine hours.  Or perhaps “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater / Had a Wife and Couldn’t Keep Her.”  Then the sopranos could sing a “Pattycake Pattycake” ostinato over that. Bingo: instant Glass.

The score is less impressive without the visuals. Without the sumptuous rot and frozen glory of Vienna to look at, it sounds like every other Glass score. I remember buying “North Star” oh so many years ago on the recommendation of the rock & roll magazines, believe it or not. Glass was regarded as a progressive musician – Kraftwerk without the warmth. But I still prefer another sheet of Glass to another baroque and pointless Elfman score.

Anyway. Also watched the first episode of “Rome.” I had been cautioned that it was less than impressive, and I don’t know why. It was everything I expected, and included what just might be the worst series of words a father can possibly hear. I cannot imagine anything worse.

Back to work – columns to write. New Quirk, and a Matchbook chosen for its historical relevance. Which, alas, seems to be scant.

Sorry; it’s late and I have too much to do. I’ll be cheerier tomorrow.