All clear now?

10 .02. 00

Briefest of Bleatage, just to inaugurate the month. Much to say and no time to say it in - the Book is due tomorrow, again. This is the layout version. I’ve designed all the chapters for the Gallery of Regrettable Food, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that not one idea will be used. As is, that is. They’ll change them around. Fine. I wish the book was done, a fait accompli due on your stands tomorrow, but there are many more weeks and nights like this to come.

What amuses me is the inefficiencies that begin in about an hour. I’ll finish the book, and burn it on a CD. Which will then be put in the mail, physically dragged across the country, dumped into a sorting area in New York, hand-delivered to a building, dumped in another sorting area, then hand-delivered by someone to my editor’s desk. In a few years, I could transmit the entire file in a blip, but everybody isn’t there, yet.

Anyway. Everything’s a mess, as it always is at the end of a Book Period. Stacks of stuff stacked up on other stacks of stuff, stuff heaped in stuff-heaps, piles of stuff heaped next to stacks of boxes of horrible mudslide messes of stuff, the stuff being: DV cassettes, bottle tops, empty husks left from nicotine gum containers, sleeves of CDs long gone, software boxes, books, books, magazines, DV cassette labels, pens, cords, manuals from the new camera, a dozen empty plastic envelopes, postcards, a ream of photocopied ads from newspaper microfilm, bills - a few of which have such a serious, concerned tone I ought to call them Williams - and a clock on the desk, face down, which, when I upend it, reads -


Back to work. Book #5: done. In the immortal words of Tony Curtis in “The Sweet Smell of Success” -

Cat’s in the bag. Bag’s in the river.

10 .03. 00
I think we got our first smile tonight. We’ve had smiles before, but they’re fleeing gas-related smiles, and as such are the most honest smiles one can possibly imagine. No socialization has interceded between GI tract and brain; relief on one end is instantly reflected on the other. But today she’s been grinning and grinning - half-smiles that flicker to life when her eyes clap on Mommy. They’re like little flames that don’t catch; the neurons are too damp. But tonight she just beamed, and I had the camera handy: got it. (Picture link below.)

You can tell it’s our first. From what I understand, people who have many kids take less and less pictures - number four, for example, gets a birth picture, a first day of kindergarten picture, and a college graduation picture. Gnat, of course, will be utterly, completely documented. Especially since I now have a camera I trust. The Fuji 4700, which was too cool to be true, finally busted for good. It fabulous pictures, and feels more stable and solid. But it looks like a camera. the Fuji 4700 looked like a Cigarette Case from the 24th century, and of course that was the problem. When I bought it in the first place and looked at that cool sliding lens cap, I heard the voice of my mother, speaking to the six-year-old in me: it looks fancy, but it’s just going to break.

And Mom was right. I want to know that when I grab the camera to nail down a fleeting moment, it's going to work. Of course, if I was really serious, I'd hire a desperate, insomniac amphetamine-crazed sketch artist, who'd be always ready to capture the moment. They don't take much food, but they sweat a lot, and they smell.

Gorgeous weekend - spent the nights feverishly working on the book, trying to finish it by Sunday night. Which I did. Called my agent this morning to get the address so I could ship it to Random, and they said: we’ll overnight it! I said great, I’ll walk over and drop it off. (It’s about a 30 minute walk from my office downtown.) They said: We’ll send a courier!

O to live in such a world. Speed-dial the courier, issue instructions, and then move on to the next task: mission accomplished.

Anyway. The weekend days were spent outside as much as possible - high 70s, perfect skies. Saturday I exchanged the camera, because I couldn’t bear to be without a camera this week. Peak fall colors. We took a family walk to dog heaven, where I attempted to get Jasper to do a few things for the video camera. I wanted to set a few scenes to some musical cues from “Peter and the Wolf.” A disaster. I understand now why people become professional directors - you can pay people to do exactly what you want them to do.

Discovered something today that will be a standard feature of 6.0: comics. Old comics. I was sitting out the traffic at work - it usually doesn’t thin out until 6 PM now, due to the astonishing amount of construction and road work in downtown - and I decided to prowl through some microfilm of the Star from 1921. Anyone who believes the 20s were an era of great sophistication ought to spend a few hours scrolling through these brittle reels. Things were heavy, musty, old-world, hokey, corny, complacent, and shot through with lies. Plus, ugly: it was not a streamlined Art-Deco world where Scotty and Zelda drank hooch from zeppelin-shaped cocktail shakers. 1921 owed more to 1905 than it did to 1922.

Anyway: I found a comic I’d never heard of before - an obscure little strip called “Jerry on the Job.” It takes place at a railroad depot, where Mr. Quivney contends with the antics and quips of a small stunted blank-eyed child named Jerry Flannigan. It’s not funny. It’s not funny at all, ever. What distinguishes it, however, is its incredible overusage of the flip-take. That’s my term for a strange occurrence you see only in comics: characters respond to a surprising retort by doing an instantaneous somersault in place. Peanuts had lots of flip-takes. When half the strips on the page include an occasional flip-take, it’s no big thing, but Peanuts, in the end, was the sole provider of flip-takes. Well: I have found the mother of all flip-takers, right here: nearly every single Jerry on the Job ends with a flip-take. When you take 30 of them and read them one after the other, instead of once a day, they seem damned surreal: it’s as if these punchlines have the power to knock people off their feet and spin them around in midair. Some of these fliptakes throw people across the room. It’s just amazing. So I copied a few dozen. It’ll be part of 6.0’s new Enhanced Features: Fliptake Follies. Plus Lance Lawson, Smasher of Weak Prevarications!

It’s Monday, a work night. But here’s that smile:

10 .04. 00

My wife was down the hall; I was in the utility room.

“Honey?” I said. “Now that the acid’s kicked in, I think I’ll iron the baby.”

“Leave the iron on for me,” she said.

The next day, in a mood of utter complete sleep deprivation, I entered the office in a giddy state, lightheaded and grinning; when people said hello, I replied that this was the day I shot up the place. Ha! Ha! You kidder. When someone said “pardon?” I changed the reply: “I said, whyyyy, helllo!” And if someone walked by while I was still talking to this person, I’d shout: “You I shall spare!” They’d either wave or look confused.

See, you have to be quiet to be feared. Noisy guys never shoot up the place. No survivor of a workplace shooting ever says “Judas on a Vespa, but the man never stopped flapping his gums. It was a relief when he started shooting, because at least we didn’t have to listen to him babble.”

A few days later, we went to the pediatrician. I noticed that the doctor spoke to my wife. Not to me: her. I was sitting nearby; it’s not as if he had to lindablair his neck to see me. But he didn’t acknowledge me at all until I had the temerity to speak, and ask a question. And even then he gave me the expression a Woolworth waitress would give a Black patron who sat down five minutes after they desegregated the lunch counter. As the father, I guess I had the legal right to be there, but talking: that’s pushing it.

Just went downstairs. The big leather pseudo-Stickey chair where I’ve sat lo these many years in Lileks Manor has been taken over by Jasper. Since I now sit on the sofa with the baby, with all the remotes, bottles, books, puke clothes, pillows etc., he’s decided this is his chair now.

I am invisible.

Welcome to fatherhood!

I don’t mind. It’s inevitable. Around here I am the least important human - and it had better be that way. More important than Mom, Giver of Comfort and Sustenance? No. More important than Gnat, even when she’s been spending nights playing that arch-fiend, Shrieky LaGasse? No. And in the morning when I have work to do but Jasper comes up to the studio with a beseeching look, and whimpers his small request, I am less important than the dog.

Never felt smaller, in those respects, yet it’s odd: never felt bigger.

Attended a meeting today. This is rare. I don’t attend many, because nothing I do requires meetings.

This is by design.

Meetings make me despair. For the paper. For humanity. Meetings make me understand the appeal of dictatorships. After ten minutes in a meeting I want Mussolini to come through the door. After half an hour I turn into Mussolini. How anyone can take a steady daily diet of meetings is beyond my ken. This one was short, civil and productive, and I still wanted to disembowel myself before the door had clicked shut. You can just feel your life ebbing away in meeting rooms; every word is a clammy worm that gnaws on the corpse of your youthful dreams. No idealistic 20 year old ever sought to live if a life of meetings. They take to the streets! Man the barricades! Direct action!

Of course, meetings are where the things that shape and change the world happen.

How, I have no idea. People talk, nothing is decided, then somehow something changes. This is how we’ll get a one-world government. One day in a hundred years, we’ll all wake up and find that there’s just one country now, and the capitol is Geneva. Half the people on earth will wonder what happened; the other half will say “didn’t you get the memo?”

Anyway. Back to work; the fiction bender continues, with another Lance Larson 30-minute story up next, then web work, and then - if all goes well - movie and a scotch. I’d promised myself a scotch when the book was finished. I bought a tiny bottle of Bowmore (17 year old) in New York for just this purpose. That’s if Gnat doesn’t do a Hindenburg on us tonight and erupt in flaming gas. But I’ll gladly take her if she does. Such is my job as a father.

Oh, the humility!

10 .05. 00

The perils of One-Click: there’s a box on the kitchen table from Amazon, and I’ll be damned if I know what’s in it. The other day the Spinal Tap DVD showed up, and that was good. The next day another Spinal Tap DVD showed up, and that was not. (Good.)

It’s a night of play. Whee. I ran off a batch of photos for the workplace - today, having no particular obligations for the subsequent edition of the paper, I decided to clean out my desk. There were five drawers stuffed to the gillwales, and I emptied every one of them. The contents of some drawers made me weep - why, in God’s name, had I saved 37 ketchup packets? Did I fear a reprise of the great Ketchup Drought of Ought-Eight? Out it all went. All of it. All of it. Then, feeling the manic twister start spinning in my brain, I went after the walls, and everything came down, all the pictures and clips. Enough! Sometimes it’s good to scour everything down to the basic empty acreage of burlap and rebuild your background one new photo at a time.

So I did. And then I put all the clear pushpins in clump - a pushpin herd - and arranged them Just So. At which point I thought: I’m starting to make “anal retentive” look like “a dysentery patient who’s been given a vindaloo enema.” So I went home.

And attacked the closet! Having upgrade and discarded many bits of old clothes, and having noted over the past blurry month that they’d accumulated in a heap on the floor, I decided ! to! clean! the! closet! And an hour later all the clothes I wanted to give to the Salvation Army were stuffed in a bag, and all the new clothes were arranged by color, and gradation of color.

This flurry of activity pleases my wife.

This flurry of activity frightens my wife. But not as much as it used to. As I’ve said before - I have turned into the world’s only manic-depressive whose depressive cycles last about 17 seconds. It’s really quite delightful. It’s been a long, long time since the Black Sack beckoned.

Tomorrow: the basement!

Watched part of the Men in Black DVD last night. It’s fun . . . but. But it’s just a trailer for a much more interesting movie. It’s short and it’s amusing, but as usual I keep thinking of the movie I’d rather see, the movie I wish they’d made. I’d seen it before, a few years back, on New Year’s Eve at the Giant Swede’s house, when we gathered to watch guilty-pleasure films. Since the babies were asleep upstairs, we had to keep the sound down - so everyone leaned forward and listened to the barely audible explosions of Con Air, and the barely audible dialog of MiB. At the time, I didn’t get the film’s biggest visual gag: the interior of the MiB’s workplace is not intended to be modern - it’s supposed to look old, something designed in the 60s. A combination of Dulles Airport, the TWA terminal, the sets from “Sleeper,” the Racine Johnson Wax bldg, etc. If that’s the case, it ought to have looked a little shopworn - I mean, the people are using those one-piece phone with the dial in the buttplate, which ought to show some wear. Unless they’re buying refurbished units on eBay.

Back to work - I have to write a Lance Lawson story, finish installing Windows, play a little Q3 and edit some film! Maybe compose some music, too! Like a symphony!
No: an Opera!

10 .06. 00

Finished ironing a shirt this morning. Hung it on the usual hook behind the utility room door. But there weren’t any hooks. There hadn’t been any hooks since we painted the room. In May. But every morning I spin around and attempt to hang a shirt on a blank wall.

So you’d think I’d know better than to MOVE THE CLOTHES HAMPER, but that’s what I did today. It’s still in my closet, but it’s off to the side. So far I’ve thrown four items into empty space.

And I’ll do so for the next year unless I THINK first. But who the hell wants to think, first? Certain things ought to be rote, just to free up your brain for thinking about other things. Like the day ahead, which will consist of absolutely everything you did the previous day and will do tomorrow. But you’ll be wearing a different shirt.

Gnat smiled at me today - although I think she was just smiling at the world, and I walked into the picture. We’re getting close to the real thing, though, tied to specific faces and events. She tracked Jasper tonight, too. In a few months she’ll be yanking his tail.

The other night, when Gnat was suffering not the Knives of Gas but the Thousand Stabbing Scimitars of Intestinal Jihad, she was screaming with such force she would have drowned out a Soviet transport plane. Jasper got up from his chair, went to the back hallway, click click click. I heard him scratch a paw on the screen: please, let me out.

He’s never done that before.

Can’t say as I blame him. But she stopped, eventually. Part of it was gas; part is simply the daily decompression babies perform. Or so I’ve learned. They just have to blow the day out all available holes, especially if they’ve had lots of giant faces looming over them, doing the big giant gitchee-oogly-goo nonsense that giants love to do.

She’s doing it now, downstairs: peevish waahs. I held her for a while, and she banged her head into my lower lip as if to say Dammit! I don’t get it! Color, light, faces, sound - how the hell does this stuff WORK?

Then there’s a moment where she gets it - color flows from light and faces make bright familiar sounds, and the world works, the world fits together. And then she smiles.

Just think: the simple combination of Dog / Soft / Friend is practically quantum physics to her now; it’ll be basic code in a few months.

Speaking of which - tonight I was walking into the likkastow, and Jasper did the old heinie-sniff with another dog. The owner looked at Jasper, and her eyes widened a bit - “That’s -”

“This is Jasper,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “I recognize him from his web page.”

That’s a first. Now we have to behave. Now I’m worried he’ll get stupid, or get the phantom humps; he does that for no apparent reason, and it just dissolves all his dignity and fine bearing. But he behaved. He was extremely worried that he wasn’t going to get his treat. Dog logic: if the treat is not forthcoming NOW then it’s NEVER forthcoming unless it MIGHT be forthcoming but if it COULD be forthcoming than why isn’t it here NOW unless it’s NEVER forthcoming, etc.

He whined, softly; he stared up at the counter. When it was our turn he put his paws on the counter and his snout in the air: where? Where is the treat I know you will be giving?

Here it is!


musteatitnowbeforeanyonegets it

More? More? More? More? More?

You’d think we never fed him. Tonight he got turkey, gravy, and stuffing for supper. (In addition to his balanced meal of PurinaOne ChickenSphincters, of course.) It was great stuffing, too: Stove Top. I learned something tonight about making Stove Top; the instructions said “add seasoning packet to water, boil, simmer five minutes, add stuffing, remove from heat.” In my haste to prepare supper I screwed it all up, and dumped the stuffing into the boiling water. Hmm. Oops. So I added the seasoning packet, stirred it vigorously, and removed from heat.

No difference.

A fine weekend awaits - if it’s sunny, I’ll shoot pictures & video; if not, I’ll work on this and that. A fine week comes next, including the Return of the Diner on Tuesday. That’s going to be an interesting day, a clusterfarg of no small proportions: two columns due, a radio show to do, AND the possibility of running into Fearless Leader. But that’s a Bleat to come.