|DECEMBER 1999 Part 1|
|I dont like it. I DONT like it. I DONT LIKE it. I -
I am repeating myself. But its satisfying and curiously cathartic. I am looking at the plans for Lileks Manor - stately Lileks Manor! - and I have decided that I just dont like them. Its not my house. Thats not to say it wont be, and that this plan cannot be salvaged, but there are certain elements that seem fixed and unavoidable. The sofa does not have its back to a wall. This is no small thing. The sofa MUST have its back to a wall. This is not fun.
It really isnt.
But. Theres no gun to my head; I dont have to do this. The problem, however, is that I prefer cozy, closed spaces, not open flowing dribbly arena-rooms. I may have to put my foot down and INSIST that walls be erected - here, here, and here. Also here. Enclose the sofa in four walls! With a door and windows so I can get in and out and watch TV. And square up those windows! Tighten it up! Get rid of that trim! I aint payin for some whoorhouse here! This is a respectable establishment!
Its affecting my dreams. I swear I spent half the night redesigning the porch, over and over again. Its affecting my dog walks; now I walk down alleys, looking at the backs of other peoples houses, judging their additions, wondering how they get by with two square yards of yard. I imagine everyone goes through this phase; they just say NO, and stay put, or move, or think that their objections are due to some stubborn inability to Imagine the Glory that the remodelers keep describing.
Went to work. Wrote a column. Its a five piece week; three down, two to go. I hate to think of it that way, and I really dont; these are not obligations, but opportunities. The day this becomes a chore will the day I finally lose all touch with reality. And it will be the day I start to write my own obituary: should I ever see the job as an obligation, I am setting myself up to be knocked off by those who see it as an opportunity. So I dont. Today was one of those days where everything comes easily, and I hope the rest of the week goes the same way; Ive neglected to throw out good topics the last few weeks, and Im paying for it now. Oh, Ive enough letters to run - I have 1,457 unused letters. Really. Thats todays count. Since I run two or three a day, Im set for a long, long time. But I want to keep moving forward.
You know, now that I think of it, life has become exceedingly narrow and banal lately. The weather and early darkness proscribes your life, narrows things, reduces the day to small tunnels of duty and habit. Nothing unusual has happened in a long, long while, which might explain the dial-tone nature of recent Bleats. Well, this will change; it always does. Thus concludes an utter drama-free, eventless day. Not bad, not good - just a standard ration enlivened by a dozen different details - a magazine article, a good cartoon, an exchange of nonsense at the office, a fine dark cup ofcoffee, the sight of the Christmas lights greeting me as I drove up to the house, the sight of the same as I walked the dog tonight, the stance Jasper assumed in the video store when he knew a treat was imminent, the way he disobediently stood on his hind legs and put his paws on the counter to see if more treats were possible, the entertainment I got out of the Half-Life expansion pack game tonight, the brief rill of anticipation I got this morning upon learning that local channels will be available on dish networks, which I will watch on the sofa.
Which will not have its back to the wall.
12-02-99 I keep walking past the copy of Esquire in the Star-Trib library, and I keep fuming at the cover. 100 things a man should do before he dies, the cover says. One of them, according to the cover, is Sharon Stone. This leads a fellow to believe that there are 99 other impossible things contained within the magazine. Why buy it? Why bother? Number two is probably Fly out of SPECTRE HQ using a jet pack. Number 37 might be Build the worlds tallest building and then pee off the observation deck. I dont even like Sharon Stone. Dont tell me what I have to do before I die. As long as were at it, stop telling what is required to be a Man. Esquire for years has been a floundering mess - in the early 80s it was full of hymns and laments, like someone whos found his old Little League mitt in the attic and is about to burst into tears. Now it wants to be Maxim for guys who are seven years away from expanding prostates.
The third movie, which teeters right on the edge of being a piece of crap but has enough ballast to keep it from falling over, is straight out of the age of AIDS. Sex, in the form of Ripley, is disruption and death. The fruits of conception are, for Ripley, a horror requiring self-immolation - in the posture of Christ, no less. It is an off-putting, dank movie that sunders the audiences bond in the first few minutes by killing almost everyone we liked, and it finishes the job at the end by bringing back a hero from the second movie and making him a villain. I feel the same way about this the way I felt about Mission: Impossibles treatment of Jim Phelps: you stupid, stupid bastards. Thanks for nothing.
The fourth movie is a perfect symbol of fat and happy culture with lots of money, a full tank of gas and no road map whatsoever. Loud, stupid, unimaginative, cynical, heartless. Typical.
But the second is my favorite, perhaps because I have a warm spot for the 80s. Reviewers have, in retrospect, called it the Reagan Aliens movie, and they have a point: its beefed-up / gung-ho / jingo theater from wall to wall, but its anything but a mindless military paean. As an action movie, its peerless. It might be the best of its genre. As storytelling, it hits every base except romance, although it even gets close there: in one of the end scenes where Ripley and Hicks trade first names, its the military version of the food-eating scene in 9 1/2 weeks. The evil meet an evil end; the weak are allowed to redeem themselves. Its old-style storytelling, and its very satisfying. Thank George Lucas for making it permissible to do this again.
The movie, however, is not a Reagan-era military parable; its actually about Vietnam.. The Marines - the Colonial Marines - are sent to a far-off place, where their technology is useless against an implacable, low-tech foe. Theyre led by a greenhorn CO who gives orders from the rear. In the end they nuke the joint and get out. Okay, the Vietnam analogy breaks down here. And I wouldnt have thought of it at all, except that the DVD had an interview with Cameron where he said he was lifting the scenario and characters from Vietnam archetypes. So there.
In any case, cultural historians will love this film for its treatment of shifting sex roles. Theres Vasquez, the buff profane Latina whos muy macha than most of the guys; Im not sure if she was the first muscular female role in big movies, but I do recall the awe and hushed admiration of many a fellow after seeing the movie. Wow: women with biceps. Cool. But its Ripley, of course, who character crossed all the roles. She was all gal - two underwear shots just to reassure us - but she could fire a gun AND care for a child AND operate heavy machinery AND make the final conflict all about hissy-fit bitch-slapping AND fierce maternal fury. At the end of the film, you had the family of the future: the maleunconscious from painkillers, mother, daughter, and the helpful torso of a mechanical creature. (Maybe Bishop, at this point, was a child, in which case Ripleys nuclear family had 1.5 children.)
For me, it ends with the last scene. The third and fourth movie didnt happen. Ripley and Hicks made it home and adopted Newt and mounted Bishop on a lawn-mower chassis. And if Ripley had a baby, and it was a Caesarean, they didnt saw open her sternum.
12-03-99 I have the horrible feeling that Ive already missed two Christmas parties I was supposed to attend. I have an equally horrible feeling that both are tomorrow. Theres a 15th anniversary party for Almanac, which is probably tomorrow night; cant miss that. And theres my friend Wesleys company party, which might have been tonight. If both are tomorrow it will be a long day of wide strained grins. I propose a new device to be marketed expressly for the holiday season: a harness, cinched at the waist and neck. A thick strap will holds one arm up, so you can clasp a drink; small metal arms attached to the neck-cinch will pull your face back in a holiday grin, and a small cattleprod located near the spinal column will keep you circulating throughout the room. I realize that this would not be for everyone - cant be, lest all parties consist of people with their faces spread back, flinging themselves around the room as they follow the dictates of the prod.
But some variant on this would be welcome. The Party Suit. I think Ill take this up in the column on Sunday.
Tonight the Rudolph special was on; I saw it as I passed the TV. Hardly registered. It was like seeing the Charlie Brown Halloween cartoon in April: eh? Huh? I wish Id stopped and watched it, but every inch of my mood is so resolutely unHolidayish that Ive no desire to marinate myself in what was, in childhood, a holy moment. Of course, it was probably a holy moment for two years, maybe three. Theres the first time you see it, where you dont understand everything but you understand the basics,. the simple emotional arc of the story: sad, alone, friends, happy, escape, scared/ brave, trouble, we win!, family, presents. The next time you see it you pick up the details of the story; the next year you pick up the details of the show itself, the physical details of the models and faces. the next year you see it and love it because youve always seen it and loved it. And you never quite let it go. I dont know anyone worth talking to who sneers at the Rudolph special, or the Charlie Brown special. Theyre exempt from criticism.
Theres always one year in childhood where you remember that theres more after the end - after the commercial, theres the part where Rudolph and Santa toss the misfit toys out of the sleigh while the credits roll. Theres more! Of course, after that, its never a surprise.
A perfect definition of adulthood: even though you know theres something more to come, the impact is lessened each time you expect it.
12-06-99How smart is Jasper Dog? Always a good question, but a difficult one - human intelligence is not dog intelligence. They have no need to be smart in most of the ways were smart; theyre built for other jobs. Still, every year I find the opportunity for a memory test. As youll see.
12-07-99Monday, column night, time for a 21-minute Bleat. Set timer, go:
Although how can I fill 21 minutes? Nothing that happened todaycan be told in the Bleat. Private matters. Not the good stuff, or the hopeful stuff, or the surly furious bile-spitting mood that has characterized the last few hours, since I found out that Ill be spending - but no. Cant say that, either. So . . .