Okay, well, now it’s cooling off:

Eleven below when we woke up this morning. Much colder outside, of course.

It’s a busy day – besides three columns, there’s book work to be done: five pages per day mininum, so I’ll have to beg off Bleat-wise, except for the reasonably-popular “24” update. So here are some pictures.

The  ghost of Target.

They’ve knocked down the entire store except for the façade, which must be made of sterner stuff. The grappling machines have been chewing away at the building for a week, and the result is a huge empty lot with a few mean piles of debris and twisted beams. You want cold? This is cold.

(Much larger version with more detail here.)

I should note that this view wouldn’t have been possible a while ago; I took it from the top floor of a new parking ramp built near the hoity / toity Galleria shopping center. The ramp was built in part for a giant hotel-condo project, which was stalled for many months because Barnes and Noble, a Galleria tenant, had a line in their lease that prohibited residential construction in the complex. I’ve no idea why. You’d think they would welcome the additional foot traffic. In any case, the developers had to wrangle with B & N, and now the project is going ahead. A giant hole has been gouged in the earth:

Cold work, there. Cold work. It was godlessly cold on the top of the ramp; my hands ached after 30 seconds outside. Afterwards I went into the Galleria to look for a few things for the house, and had the same old pointless and depressing Stab Of Regret I get there sometimes. Used to go to the Galleria a lot when Gnat was very young, and I’m not sure why; they had a good toy store (good by progressive-parent standards, since they carry few branded / franchised / TV spin-off items, concentrating on brain-food toys and Swedish things made of wood.) Changed many a diaper in the restroom. Threw coins in the fountain. Spent time in the Pottery Barn Kids store, playing with the kitchen toys. That was then. Aw, crap.

Ah, well. 

Question: is your wife too civilized? This is from a 1950s Better Homes and Garden:

At first it seems to be a rebuke to our soft-handed culture; why, those Okinawa women could fight invaders with babies on their back, and if we’re to resist the Russian hordes we’d best learn to do the same. Actually, it’s about child-rearing, and how Okinawa women carried the kid around all the time in a sling. The “too -civilized wife” put the kid in a floor cage and didn’t give it constant contact. We’re always worried about something. I find the “your wife” line interesting; I’d thought BH&G was aimed primarily at women. It has enough lawn-mower ads in the back to indicate a small male readership, but most of it seems aimed at the housewife demographic, and you’d think they would bristle at the “Your wife” bit.

It was the accompanying picture that caught my eye: a young mother c. 1956. Love it. Especially the hair. There's a style you might never see again.

Now, his week’s “24” update, written in real time as it actually happens. So spoilers galore, I imagine.

Okay: when last we left the Bauer Clan, Piglet McBluetooth, aka “Gray,” had shoved Boney ol' Dad and Jack in the back of a van. It was a tepid episode – people really don’t tune into “24” for the family-conflict storylines, unless it’s a family whose patriarch wants to KEEL FEELTHY AMERICANS and the mom mostly agrees, but wants to get her son to the orthodontist’s first. My expectations for this episode are low. They’ll have to set off another nuke to get me back in the game, frankly. Let’s make the popcorn (Orville Zombiebacher 100 calorie SmartPop, the usual hairshirt treat) and begin.

Argh. When Gnat watched TV tonight she must have cancelled the HD version. So tonight’s episode is presented in Smeary Stretch-0-vision. Also, I burned the popcorn. Let me make another bag. Be right back.

Okay. Apparently the Fairness Doctrine has kicked in, because President Palmer has switched from Fox News to “CNB,” the Cable News Betwork. (They had a cold when they named it.)    

UPDATE: The dreaded Red Folder is placed on the President’s desk, requiring a meeting of the Cabinet. You might wonder why they hadn’t been convened already; when a nuke goes off, the President is unlikely to bark “Get me the Secretary of Education” after he shakes off the shock.

UPDATE: Gray is on the phone to the drivers of the Death Van, and says he’s “dumping the hard drives.” Someone had the double-fiber bran bread for breakfast, I guess.  Chloe bursts into Bill B’s office: she can’t get Jack on his cell phone. Only in the world of “24” would this be cause for alarm. It’s like me bursting into my boss’s office and saying “my AM radio cuts out in tunnels.”

UPDATE: Dad and Jack have an inscrutable conversation in the back of the Death Van; Dad says he did it all for Jack. Did what? I think it’s been apparent for half a decade that son Jack wasn’t going to take over the family business. Whatever the hell that is. Son, I’d like to offer you a position in strategic planning. No thanks, Dad, I’d prefer to be the tip of the spear. Our marketers think we can achieve a 15 percent penetration in petrochemical derivatives by 2010, Jack. Please reconsider. Dad, I killed 36 men last night. I really need to sleep. 

Uh-oh: ominously abandoned industrial site #29234. Here comes the shootening, unless Jack grabs his father by the ankles and swings him like a bat.

“Whatever he’s paying you, I’ll double it.” Has that ever worked?

Whoa. There may come a day when my dad shoots someone I just wounded, and my immediate response is “I needed to question him!” But that day will not come soon .

UPDATE: Okay, who is McCarthy? Is it the guy with the clueless girlfriend? If so, he just found a perfect person who can set off the nukes, but he will need coercing, and I know exactly who that person is. It’s Morris. Which means Chloe will be kidnapped and tortured. All of her fingers will be broken and she will do all the crucial typing in the last three hours with her nose. 

Hah: Morris is running a program to retrieve the photo of the person who will defuse the bombs under duress. There’s your 12:59:59 moment foretold. I’ll stake my “24” watching credentials on it.

UPDATE: CTU’s inexhaustible supply of armed agents bursts into Piglet’s house, where the Tvs are also tuned to CNB. Piglet goes down; Jack takes his wife into the kitchen for barking and muttered hisses, as is his wont.

Hot ex-lover-now-wife-of-Gray spits at Jack: “I’ve seen what happens when you try to protect people!” Good point. A few busted fingers, some hard feelings, and, oh, vast swaths of the continental United States protected from grim death. Unless this goes back to when they were dating. What is their backstory, anyway? Maybe she’s McCarthy. Maybe she’s Nina’s sister.

UPDATE: Morris’s brother is going to the hospital for radiation poisoning? HELLO, LEVERAGE.

UPDATE: Harrowing interrogation scene: well done, and painful to watch. These guys are off each other’s Christmas lists for good, I think. Meanwhile at the White House, the legal arguments about expanded detention have just been settled by those most powerful argument known to network television: anecdotal events described by a close relative.

Back at the house, Jack confronts the painful fact that James Cromwell was paid enough to show up, but not to act.

“I need a few minutes,” Dad says. Is it just me, or does this mean he will now kill his son? Has this show made me so suspicious of people I cannot trust a man to say a few sad, bitter words to the albino oompa-loompa he calls a son before he’s carted off to CTU’s Screaming Needle House?

UPDATE: Cy Tolliver as Veep? Yes! And Ricky Jay for his chief of staff!


UPDATE: Dad’s heading in to see Piglet . . . oh, crap. Well, that’s not unexpected. Uh oh  . . . yikes. Well, that’s not unexpected, either. At least Piglet went in great pain with the knowledge of his betrayal flooding through every synapse in his brain.

So there’s that. Better than last week. Next week: Morris flips dip switches under duress!