Well, that was fun. Yesterday's radio show, that is. Lots of fun. I always think that I’m going to “go up,” as they say in theater - lose one’s place, become hideously self-conscious, and enter the death-spiral where you panic, freeze, and run out of the booth. Of course, that never happens. It happened once, in 1985, and I’ve never forgotten it, damn the luck. But there’s always that point in the first few moments where it just seems like such an unnatural thing to do - sit in this room and talk to no one and to everyone. Now that KSTP has established a Minnesota network, there are even more people listening than before, and if you think of them peering with suspicion at the radio, wondering what the hell this nattering idiot is doing, well, it can unman you in seconds. You have no choice: punch it, floor it, spin the wheels for a moment if you have to, but GO.

I’ve done a few shows since I stepped away from the mike a while ago, but nothing felt as good as the show I did today. Not saying it was great radio, just that it felt comfortable. Felt fun. I was dealing with a new quirk of the format: we can’t say the call letters. It is been bred into my bones to come in and go out with the call letters - but since the show’s on a network, I had to ID the show, and let the affiliates drop in their call letters. And I had to get out five seconds before the top of the hour, not on the top. Small details, but I wanted to do them right. It’s a point of pride to do the show like a pro.

Enough preening.

My wife is back, and that’s a relief. Last night was the last gasp of bachelorhood, and I spent it on the couch with a few movies I’d seen before. That’s my idea of a good time: seeing movies I’ve seen before. Very infantile, I know; very Teletubbies. Again! Again! But I hadn’t seen 2001: A Space Odyssey in 20 years, and certainly hadn’t seen it with a clear mind. It was . . . well, it’s not really a film one can love. You have the feeling that a much more interesting movie is going on right around the corner. It’s very cold; the beginning seems a little silly, and the big light-show at the end is interminable. I dimly remember the buildup that preceded the film - one of the magazines I subscribed to as a kid had a big breathless piece about the astonishing scientific accuracy of the movie, the wonderful sets, the ingenious camera work . . . and then we got this block of ice, this big slab of frigid marble that didn’t seem excited at all about these nifty spacecraft and gadgets. Which, of course, was the point.

It irritates me that we’re not as advanced in space as the film portrays - no moon base, no space station, no Jupiter probes. But at least when do accomplish those things, we’ll have a better sense of interior design. Those chairs in the space station looked like they belonged in a “Love, American Style” episode.

Then I watched “Titanic,” which impressed me less the second time than the first. I wanted less of the adolescent love story, and more of the SHIP. The sinking sequence was as spectacular as I remembered - but my initial impression was confirmed. The key moments in the history of the night lacked punch; Cameron seemed to be deliberately underplaying them, because he had so much to give later on. But there should have been more drama in the collision sequence than the Rose-saves-Jack-from-a-Watery-Grave sequence, because more was at stake. In this film, however, there isn’t anything more at stake than Rose and Jack, and while that gives the movie a focus, it weakens the impact of the greater story. “Titanic” isn’t really about the Titanic at all. Add some tiresome PC anachronisms and the moustache-twirling You Must Pay the Rent! acting of the bad guys, AND a dishonorable treatment of both Captain Smith and ESPECIALLY Mr. Lightholler, and you have a film that frustrates Titanic aficionados as much as pleases them.

At least it had the drunken baker. It's not a Titanic movie without the drunken baker.

All I’ve done for the last week is watch movies. Haven’t read anything - except for a great New Yorker article on David Hockney’s theories on Renaissance painting. He thinks he knows why they came up with perspective, and how they got everything right: they had cheats. They used optical instruments that projected the images on the canvas. He’s probably right; the article has a mad thrill running through it, mostly because Hockney’s completely obsessed with the idea. I intended to bring this up on the radio today, but like every other bit of show prep, it was thrown to the wind. Well, I’ll save it for the next show.

Before I left the house today, I pawed through a box for some old unused show prep from the Diner days. Couldn’t find it. Can’t believe I threw it out. What will I talk about next time?


Honest to Bog, there’s naught in the tank but fumes tonight; wispy vapors that can impel the Bleat on a few wheezy coughing paragraphs, but little more. I wrote and wrote and wrote yesterday and did the same today, and as much as I wish I had saved a bright golden nugget of insight for the Bleat, I’m done. Empty, wrung dry, finis, factus est. I swear that the entire day has adhered to an iron-forged schedule, bereft of surprise or serendipitous deviancy from the norm. Same walk with the dog at the same time over the same territory, same lunch (tuna, lemon mayo, a banana that looked as if it had been in Rodney King’s back pocket, leathery raisins) same work (wrote half the column, scowled, ripped it up, wrote it again) same walk (downtown, into the skyways, mail bills at my favorite mail slot - it’s in the old First National Bank building, and the deposit drawers have a comforting heft) same rewrite of the column (banged it all out at the last minute, scowled, wondered if I was giving myself a pass, going easy, assuming it would do. I can NEVER assume it will do; it ALWAYS has to feel as though I’m doing the best I can do. It can never be slack or lazy; I can never assume anyone will read it just because it’s there. It has to earn eyeballs anew, every single time.) Same drive home down Portland, listening to the same show talking about the same issue, with the same host and the same commercials. Same trip to the grocery store for the SAME - DAMN - ITEMS - bananas, coffee (same brand, same blend, same grind in the coffee machine) Frosty Paws dog treats, same desserts (Jello fat-free pudding sundaes; four chocolate, two caramel. Why? Why not three of each? I love the caramel. Why am I denied that third caramel sundae? Why?) Same trip through the alley to make a left onto my street to park in the same spot, and come in the door to the same greeting from the same dog -

But the dog was not there. My wife - who is battling a cold, and stayed home from work today - had risen from the flannel grave and taken Jasper for a walk. Silence. No clicking nails on the floor or stinky fishy dogbreath greeting, no curious canine hug

Same is bad until different is worse.

I just finished playing another game, for a review, and I have a few idle thoughts I couldn’t fit into the review. A word of advice to young game designers: when you create a game with a Nazi protagonist, you’re going to come in for some heat. No matter how much you insist that your hero is opposed to Nazi ideology, your point will be lost the first time a reviewer looks up cheat codes, and discovers the cheat for the god mode is “SATAN.” It also does not help matters if, when one types in SATAN, the console screen responds “YES MY LORD.” It’s hard for me to buy the whole anti-Nazi ethos when I’m pledging fealty to Old Scratch. For one horrible moment I thought: I hope this isn’t a legally binding contract. I quit the game and restarted.

Certain moments in games just feel . . . wrong. I am mostly alone in this view, but I believe one should never act in a game in a fashion you wouldn’t act in real life. That means you don’t shoot civilians or make deals with Moloch, Baal, or any other member of the Stygian pantheon.

The game, as I mentioned before, is Mortyr, and I had to finish my review tonight. The game was utterlyunsatisfactory, and I thought: is it me? Am I just a bad gamer? Did a search for some reviews, and discovered that people are hacking this thing to death with blunt blades. Well, then, let me join in, by all means. I wrote my review, knocked off work around 10 PM and realized I’d written three columns in 22 hours. Not a record, and never an impressive thing to say; volume never implies quality. But I’m tired of writing. The day has been a blur of keystrokes and characters, and it’s time I prop myself up on the sofa, put the dog’s head in my lap, eat popcorn and watch a movie. And so I will.


A nice ordinary night in front of the computer:

Try to get on the net. Number is busy for 30 minutes. Play with dog. Get on net. Get knocked off by telemarketer. Decline offer for a credit card that offers secure Internet purchases; stifle desire to point out irony.

Install Quake 3. It hangs when I click on Single Player. Restart. Check memory; I have plenty. Trim all geegaws from system folder, just in case there’s a funky conflict somewhere. (And I do not mean the KungFuFighting_dll file.) Reboot. Call up Q3. Click on single player. Load map. Computer hangs loading map. Reboot. Repeat. Reboot. Repeat. Take Q3 demo off hard drive.

Install demo of Star Wars pod racer. Regrettably, it works fine. Stifle surge of bile upon seeing animation of leaping Darth Mikey. Play it once. Remove from hard drive.

Install Photoshop plugin called Panopticum. A really, really bad name for a filter. Visions of a gargantuan, circular brothel come to mind. Run Photoshop. Filter does not show up on menu. Call up the ReadMe PDF, and within ten seconds, commence weeping. Here’s a sample of the text, here.

Walk outside, stare at stars. Consider long walk to edge of earth, a place where there are no computers.

Return to computer. Recall that I have to write a piece tonight. Weep, softly.

For last night’s movie ration, I began to watch “American Graffiti,” a film I remember with fondness. It is a good movie - but is Luca$ responsible for its strengths? He didn’t write the entire script; there are two co-writers, and given George’s thick tin ear for speech, I’ll credit the aides with most of the dialogue. I could be wrong. But one should note that "Graffiti" is the most adult film in his canon - and it's about high school. After that, it was backwards unto fairy tales.

The actual camera direction is utterly lackluster; there are perhaps three shots in the entire film: looking through the windshield at the characters, looking through the side window at another car, and looking back at the car. For variety, a stationary shot of a car driving past. The acting is hit or miss - Dreyfuss is not as annoying as he would later become, Harrison Ford (from the scene I did see) gives a performance that explains his attraction to carpentry, since he obviously has a deep instinctive understanding of what it means to be wood; Ron Howard is as natural as ever, Potsie is - oh,wait, Potsie’s not in this one. Point is, the movie works because of the editing. Someone took fifty-eight miles of film and found the story. I don’t know how much of that was Lucas, and how much was due to his collaborators’ efforts. I’m not saying the editing was spectacular; it isn’t. It’s unobtrusive. But it saves the movie.

I do like it. And it’s a little frightening to realize that the movie came out in 73, and depicted 1962. When I saw it as a youngun, 62 seemed a million years away, even though only 11 years had elapsed. That’s akin to someone making a nostalgic movie about 1989 today. Would such a thing be possible? What about 1989 would seem different than today, in the same sense that ‘62 looked so different than ‘73?
Twenty-seven years have passed since “American Graffiti.” In 1962, it had been 27 years since 1935.

And ‘73 still seems like a few months ago; ‘62 seems like ancient times.


It snowed today,
suicidal snow that expired the moment it hit the pavement. But it’s like landing troops on the beach - the first and second waves are lost, but the third and fourth grab a foothold, and before you know it snowflakes are leaping over the windowsill, slitting throats and tossing grenades. Well, let me back up: before you know it, there’s accumulation. The car needs grooming before you go home; the drive home is a strange hallucination of red taillights sailing through a crowd of a billion swirling asterisks.

Ah - there goes Raina dog. Ron, the neighbor down the block, usually walks Raina at this time; if Jasper is watching, he tends to bark. Last night Raina had the audacity to stand on the sidewalk - our sidewalk! and stare at the house. Our house! Jasper went full-tilt bezoomy, so I let him out to play. Raina, being a powerful lithe Doberman of unusual strength, kicked Jasper’s haunches up and down the block. I stood and talked with Ron while our dogs fought; it was like two parents standing by discussing the weather while their children dueled with switchblades. Hey, hey, no vital organs or arteries, boys. They weren’t fighting for real, of course - no teeth. But it takes about 10 tazer guns to get Raina to calm down, so play is still a rather brutal interval. At the end of it all Jasper trotted inside, ears flat, went to a soft rug and dropped down on his side with a grunt that said it all: a uniquely canine mixture of exhaustion, disgruntlement, confusion and relief.

As I said, Raina just went by; she looked up at our house, thinking: again! Time to kick mutt butt! But no challenge came from Jasper Den.

Wonder why.

It’s ten thirty at night, and I’m taking a break from a day of writing to . . . write. I have to finish a piece for the Toronto Globe & Mail tonight - it’s just 300 words, but a 300 word piece can take twice as long as a 3000 word piece. Odd but true. And then I have to write a monologue for TV tomorrow, even though I don’t think I have to do it; I think it’s next week, but I’d better be sure.

Interesting information? On the contrary. It bores me to write the words, but that’s the nature of this interminable week. When work crowds out every other thought, one becomes hideously dull and single-minded; your store of anecdotes and observations dwindles to a damp pile of empty vignettes, none of which bear repeating. It’s the weeks where I do little that I have the most to say, because I’ve the time to think of things to think about. This week: flapping jaws, clattering keys, another eleven pieces added to the oeuvre, all ending with the exact same reward I’d get had I done nothing:

Friday night pizza! That’s my motivation tomorrow, the hook in the mouth that hauls me through the day. I love pizza; I love it so much. When I do TV on Fridays and I stand in front of the camera, waiting to go on, my last thought before yapping is always the same: extra sauce.

Five hours later -

It’s the end of the worknight; I just hit the quit command for MacWrite and was informed I have this Bleat sitting here, unfinished, unsaved. Hmm. Well: in the intervening hours, I have done everything I needed to do, except upload a 7 MB site to Canada, and given my trickly modem speed, that’s going to be a significant endeavor. So: apologies for a week of utterly lackluster Bleating. For penance, I will offer a Gallery of Regrettable Food update on Monday.

Are we square? Thanks.