So. Halloween is approaching, and there’s a neighborhood contest for decorations. I think I’m on record as not minding them for a few years when daughter was younger and they struck some strange sweet-spot in the late 40s where you suddenly turn indulgent towards things about which you were previously indifferent. Lately, I’m back to not caring very much. Pwrhaps it has to do with not feeling at one’s peak. Tombstones? Oh, let me look at those out the front window all day. But my wife likes to do it for the kids and the general festive nature of things, so who am I to quibble? As I noted a few weeks ago, it spurred a call to the electrician, who got the sockets fixed. All is well. . .
. . . except. My wife wanted to know why they weren’t working tonight, and I remembered: the spotlights that illuminate the ghosts are tied to a transformer that may possibly be dead. It’s old. It was the one that shorted out the old socket. Now that there’s a new socket, I plugged it in, set the timer, and waited for night to trip it . . .
. . . except if she’s asked why the lights aren’t on, it’s not working. The only possible alternative here is to get the other transformer for the other low-voltage lights, disconnect it, bring it around to the front, and hook it up.
I go inside to get a screwdriver. Phone rings. Don’t recognize the number. “James Lileks.” I say.
The phone repeats back in perfect human cadence and intonation:
Then it goes dead.
I call the number.
The customer you have dialed is not available.
It’s odd and disconcerting because you have no precedent or explanation. Someone calls you up, you state your name, the robot repeats it back and hangs up? What?
I go outside - in the dark, of course - and remove the transformer and start unscrewing the screws that hold the electrical cords in place. The phone rings. Same number. Hello? It’s the fellow I called to see about reroofing the garage. Whew. He’d dropped his phone just as the call connected. He was surprised to learn what I told him about the robot repeating my name.
“I’m actually on vacation,” he said.
Oh, so now it’s clear. That was a little echo of the NSA ident program on international calls. Whew! Worried there for a minute.
I hooked up the transformer, put in the wires, screwed them tight, turned it on.
All the lights came on except the one that lit up the ghosts.
I go down to the light. I’d put a fresh bulb in the damned thing the day before. Mind you, I have eliminated through ruthlessly logical and empirical means that the problem now rests with this light, and this light only. I dig around the base; I find the wires; I give them a little tug; they come away in my hand. Cut. Severed. Gnawed. Whatever.
Argh. Well, wife’s not home from dog walk yet. There’s time. There’s hope. I dig around for the main wire; don’t see it anywhere, and yes, I have a lantern. I run to the shed for a spade and spade up the dirt around the light. No main wire.
“Why aren’t the lights on?” I hear. Curses! Foiled! She’s back!
“The transformer lights work because I swapped them out,” I said, “but this one’s cut off and I’m trying to find the main wire.”
“I mean these.” She gestures to all the lights on the porch rail and the bushes and the stonework and beyond.
“Oh. Those. Is that what you meant . . . before? Right, well - I don’t know. Let me check. So I find that the electrician had removed the plugs when he put in the new outlet and didn’t put them back, so nothing was glowing. Once I fixed this, everything shone!
Except that one light! Which I’ll fix tomorrow.
Because they’re not spooky ghosts unless they’re spotlit.
As for me, I’m not dead. Didn’t go to the doctor today despite an interval of fever dreams - I dreamed the Occupy Wall Street people occupied my backyard, presented a piece of paper appropriating my property on behalf of the People’s Committee, and demanded I leave. I went after them with a frying pan, of all things. But when I woke there was no fever, no grot, no fatigue, no miserable lurking sense that things were amiss in the old corpus. You know what I mean: there’s sick, when you’re just sick, and there’s well, which you pay no attention to, and then there’s that in-between transitional stage. I figure I should be worried if I A) had a cough, which I don’t anymore, or B) couldn’t breathe, or had discomfort breathing, which I don’t. I feel warm now, but probably because my studio is warm, and because I am a pathetic hypochrondriac who, once in these states, cannot remove himself from the situation until I’ve had four or five days where I forget I felt bad.
As I said before, no fatigue. That’s the thing that gives it away. I tried to take a nap today, but no luck. So then.
What did I do? Wrote at home for the paper - did a couple of PopCrush essays, one about the discovery of a High Holy Relic of the Beatles. Really: a letter from Paul McCartney asking an unnamed drummer to audition!!!! “Beatles scholars” were quoted, and the profession made me laugh. There was a picture of the item held by gloved hands, as if it was a piece of the Shroud of Turin. Also a story about MTV getting back to Liquid Television, and how everyone in the company is really excited about the brand. I’m sure. The content? Whatever. But the brand, now that’s something.
And endless webwork. Currently overhauling everything, as I said before. In some cases it’s a minor project - the Archives for the Institute of Official Cheer, one of those things buried down at the bottom of the page and never visited, gets a total redesign and overhaul with a ton of new content. I do one folder a day. Tackled the “Black and White World” overhaul - no redesign, just link maintenance and video-clip transference. See, everything in that site has the clips stored on my .mac account, which is going away. Not soon, but it will. So I’m moving everything to the local directory, changing the URL paths. There are 100 of those.
Digitized four hours of raw video; found a performance I did as Scrooge at a play at Natalie’s cousin’s house in Arizona. I should put that up. The overacting is something to behold.
Looked at the novel, tried to come up with the last line. Not yet. But I did have a rather obvious insight: just because the 1980 novel was written first doesn’t mean it has to be first in the series. In fact it makes sense as the second. Much more. Thinking of calling the second novel “Too Much English.” Because it has a lot of pinball, you see. You do get the reference, right?
Well, let’s trot out some links. Matchbook restaurants: ten additions. There’s also a new index page, which is boring, but will help people who are scouring the web for these things.
Comic sins is up. It’s a Captain America thing. Which reminds me! For a while I’ve been carrying these around for no reason. Need to divest. It’s the 1970s Captain America letters page banner, frantic faithful!
“Rap” meant to exchange deep, meaningful revelations from your soul, or just communicate to the others “what’s goin’ on.” Ritual handshakes were often employed. The response to a letter:
The startling seventies. I suppose it seemed so at the time. By the way, There’s are two William Peterson IIIs in McDonnough, GA who fit the demographic profile. Which was is it?
One more thing. I tried to watch, but was quickly bored, by a movie called "Millions Like Us." It's a British wartime movie designed to perk everyone up for the long haul. Didn't grab me. But I found the producton credit interesting:
In the middle of wartime, an appeal to the abiding Britsh cultural values. Mean nothig today, or rather less than it did then. The voice over describes the carefree pre-war days, when people went to the beach and had an orange; the titles assist anyone who may have forgotten:
I'll probably give it another run when I'm in the mood, but I found these imdb comments . . . sad.
To modern sensibilities the title may sound patronising, but if you're tempted to dismiss this as standard WWII propaganda fare, think again.
The basis of this film may be spine stiffening patriotism, but don't write it off on that basis alone.
I almost skipped this movie because I thought it was a documentary. It turned out to be a heartwarming and heartbreaking gem.
The effort some people expend in demonstrating they're superior to the past - or what they believe the past was like. The reassurances some feel compelled to make lest people think they're enjoying something patriotic.