The proudest moment of the weekend: Friday night Gnat wanted to watch “your cartoons” with me, by which she means old classic cartoons with a minimum of screaming and a maximum of mayhem. As it turned out, the Tivo had recorded an hour of Tom and Jerry, so we sat down, and I proceeded to ruin everything with pedagogy. But not right away. The first was a standard late-40s edition, which guaranteed Tom would have his arse jabbed or his tail chopped with a knife, resulting in the timeless shriek of boundless pain for which Tom is mostly known. (The older I get, the more I side with Tom. Also Sylvester. Just eat that damn bird and do us all a favor.) The second cartoon was a Chuck Jones entry, which meant it would be generally dreadful. Yes, yes, bow & scrape, etc., but the Chuck Jones T & Js are awful. You can start with the character design – he grafts that same old straightened-paperclip Grinch grin on both Tom and Jerry, and it doesn’t fit the characters. The gags are labored, the pace is slack, and the animation self-consciously modern. Not a laugh from either of us.

But, I said, Chuck Jones was really good with Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner. He did the Roadrunner? she asked. I love him. He’s so cute.

Yes. But he just couldn’t get Tom and Jerry.

Oh. The next one was a 50s Cinemascope cartoon no amount of panning and scanning could save, but when she saw it she said “this is one of the old ones.” Right she was, more or less. The next one was a Chuck Jones, and I paused it and asked her what was different in this style.

She thought a moment, then said The backgrounds.

<beam> Daddy’s little girl.

Wife and Child went to a mother-daughter retreat Saturday night, leaving me with the dog. In the afternoon I set up the new receiver. This meant removing the old stupid subwoofer and replacing it with the subwoofer from the Battle Bridge system, where it’s not really used. Upon bringing it upstairs, I discovered that the receiver did not have speaker-wire inputs for the subwoofer, but used an RCA plug or some weird plug I’d never seen before. I paused, cursed, rent my garments: why? Why is all this so bloody difficult? Well, I had errands to run that afternoon anyway, so I’d use my Best Buy gift card and 20% off Rewards Zone Coupon to get a cheap little subwoofer. And here is what I learned:

There are no cheap little subwoofers. There was a 5-piece speaker set for $198, which I’d seen reviewed glowingly on Amazon. (Your definitive source for audio reviews, of course.) But you can’t get a standalone subwoofer from that quality range; the cheapest was $121, and it was the size of a dorm fridge. I decided on the 5-piece – but they didn’t have one. So I went with the giant hobbit coffin. Not so bad: with my cards and coupons, it would cost about a dollar-fifty, so that’s what I got.

Unlike the previous visit, the clerk was helpful and knowledgeable and didn’t push me anywhere I didn’t want to go. Good salesman. As he was ringing me up, he said “need anything else?” and another salesperson said “A cord.” Ah hah: the unit did not come with the RCA cord. I said I had one. I had RCA cords enough to recreate the scene in “Indiana Jones” where he’s sealed in a pit with a million snakes.

“I would recommend a subwoofer cord,” said a lanky Magnolia salesman leaning against the counter. Magnolia is the BestBuy brand for their home-theater service; I used them for the plasma, and was satisfied, except for the part where the deliverymen offered to sell me an HDMI cord for a ridiculous amount of money.

“It’s not a situation that requires high-fidelity,” I said. The Magnolia man shrugged and noted how average RCA cords don’t have the shielding or impedance or whatever to faithfully reproduce big-bottom booms, or words to that effect. I asked him what they cost.

“About forty dollars,” he said. Wow. A cord that costs one third of the price of the thing to which it’s attached. I passed. Went home. Set it up. It booms. Done! No; not done. Have to set up the XM radio thing . . .nah.

Nah. It’s Saturday night. Cut loose! Go wild, Springfield style! I had supper all ready: Jamaican Jerk Meat. A new entrée at the bootique grocery store. As a fan of meat which has been jerked, I had high hopes. Nuked it for five minutes, then put it into a bowl. It was unlike meat I had previously observed. It was cooked, yet it appeared raw. It answered the question of what the muscles in the groin of a goat might resemble. It smelled like Zombie Feet. I took a bite, and the initial impression: Scotch Bonnet Pepper, and lots of it. The sort of thing you’d use to disguise meat that had once worn a buzzing beard of flies. I set it down on the ground; Jasper sniffed, licked, then declined. Granted, dogs don’t like pepper, but even he saw the evil within. I spent five minutes shoving it down the disposal, something that sounded like the shower-scene from “Scarface,” then put four dry flat cold slices of legacy pizza into the toaster oven. Plus a salad.

Then I made coffee and began the Night of Freedom! I assembled all the keyboards upstairs and made horrible noise for a few hours. (The result, “Dragnet Mix #1,” will be posted tomorrow.) Around 1 AM I sat down for TV. Watched “Rome,” and no, this is not a review. Has to do with changing attitudes towards female beauty. This episode featured Cleopatra. It’s a hard character to cast, I imagine; if she’s too beautiful, it’s too obvious, and runs against historical records. Every era sees her as they wish. Perhaps the best approach to cast someone with It, someone with an undefinable quality that even the disinterested observer could admit might well appeal to some.

Let me just say I think they cast that one right. She’s very good. And all the Roman matrons hate her.

Sunday I attempted to hook up the XM receiver about which I mewled the other day. The moment I got the parts out of the blister pack I could tell it wasn’t going to work; it lacked the right plug for the special fancy “XM” input. And I’d held the damn thing up right in front of the receiver at the store, and the fellow said it would work. Argh. So. Back to BestBuy. The unit was cheerfully exchanged, after which I wandered back to see if anyone in today’s shift could help. Salesguy #1 in the XM department: didn’t know, but walked me over to the other XM department, where we found nothing. I said I’d head to Magnolialand, the high-end department. I said I was looking for the XM “Passport” home-stereo system. That’s what they called it in the brochures and manuals. Passport. Salesguy #2 said he didn’t know anything about it, really, and passed me off to a manager, who recommended the red boxes over there, but since he was busy I couldn’t investigate the matter more.

So I went to Target. They didn’t have it. I went to Circuit City (“Where the Smell of Market Erosion is Overwhelming!”) and stood in the deserted junky audio department, looking at poorly heaped merch, waiting for a clerk. No one came. I had someone paged. A clerk showed me the same red-box arrangement. I went to CompUSA, which has diffused their brand so much I expect they will soon start selling parakeets and potted ferns; no luck. So. Back to BestBuy. I studied the fabled Red Boxes, and noted something I hadn’t seen before:

“Your XM Passport to Entertainment,” it said.


Stood in line at the checkout. The fellow in front of me was paying for a cord (an RCA subwoofer cord, if you can fargin’ believe it) with a debit card. The clerk ran the card, looked at the name, looked at the guy, then asked for his ID. The fellow huffed up and said “It’s my card,” at which point the clerk had to point out the card was issued in the name of a woman. “Oh. That’s my wife’s.” Instant deflation. A manager had to be called to cancel the transaction, and as the fellow deftly entered in a series of codes I wondered how many skills exist today that cannot be transferred from one job to another. Once upon a time, you made barrels for one guy, you could make barrels for another. But the moment you leave BestBuy, your knowledge of their point-of-sale codes is useless. You can transfer the ability to learn, but not the thing you actually learned. In the end it’s your ability to master the system that’s the skill, I suppose. Once upon a time I was a MICROS ace; when the Valli restaurant switched over to MICROS I drank it up. My first data-entry job, now that I think about it. And true to my annoying pedantic form, it bothered me that my coworkers were incurious about the meaning of MICROS. It stood for something. How could you use it every day and not care what it stood for, I thought, proto-Dwight that I was.

I went to the grocery store, without Gnat; can’t make her to anymore. She still enjoys it once we’re there, but the number of our Sunday trips have diminished. (Note to self: force the issue more in weeks to come.) The bags were wheeled out the car by a high school girl.

"BRRRR," I said as we walked out the doors. It was about six. Degrees. "Did you work Friday? It was warm Friday."

"I didn’t work I went to a concert?"

"Which one?"

"Justin Timberlake?"

Of course, I knew what I had to say. “Did he bring the sexy back? Because I was worried where it had gone.”

“He did! He was great live much better!” She put the bags in the back. “But Pink was the opening act and I’m like why couldn’t you have Gwen Stefani.”

“Gwen’s classier,” I said.


I drove home and made supper then hooked up the XM unit. To my surprise, and I mean my surprise, it cost a few more bucks a month to have an extra receiver. I can understand why. All that extra drain on the satellite, you know. Grrr. When I’d finished setting it up I gave my poor wife a tutorial on controlling the radio with the Remarkably Obtuse Remote.

“This button moves through the genres; the one goes up and down through the channels.” She gave me a look: I know honey that it is important to you and many other men in this country to have a button that moves through the genres, but really.

“And we have this now why?” she said.

Sigh. If you have to ask. “Well, because the previous DVD player was integrated into the receiver and lacked sufficient inputs to accomodate the Apple TV player, which does not yet exist, but when it does, it will let you stream movies to the TV, which you will never do because you still get them from the video store, which is the modern equivalent of having a cow out back for milk, and kneading its teats every morning into a bucket you’ve had to clean by hand. But that old DVD player is gone, so I can run the Xbox into to a receiver and play Gears of War at night with the headphones on. But also because we can get XM radio through the stereo now.”

“Just like before.”

“What do you mean?”

“Doesn’t the satellite TV have XM?”

I stopped, my gob smacked. It did. By God, it did. A year ago they’d dumped the music channels for a crippled version of XM.

“That was only some of the channels," I said. "You don’t get the really cool channels.”


I felt like an utter total idiot. Until: I remembered something. Because the kitchen / family room TV is on a TiVo, and the living room receiver isn’t, there’s a quarter-second delay when both play the same channel. When we have a party, you can’t put them both on the same channel. Drives people mad! They throw themselves out the window, complete with AIIIIEEEE! But now I could put the family room system on the satellite 40s channel via the receiver, and put the living room system on the satellite TV input, thereby eliminating the delay.

For all three parties we have each year.


New Quirk and Match.

Oh, right: Modular Integrated Cash Register Operating System.