Last night I dreamed I was sitting in the kitchen of my house in Fargo with my parents, their maid, and Bill
Clinton. It goes without saying that my parents do not have a maid. I was interviewing her about whether Bill Clinton had given her money to spy on my parents. She said, slowly, “there was no quid pro quo.” Clinton nodded gravely. He seemed preoccupied, but concerned.

Later I was standing in the kitchen with my mother, and Clinton came in. Took out a checkbook. He apologized for all the problems he’d caused, wrote out a check, and gave it to my mother. I was furious, and I ordered him out of the house. I was late for my lecture, so I too left the house. I was scheduled to make a speech on the post-Trek career of William Shatner, and discovered, to my dismay, that I hadn’t prepared. I’d have to wing it.

Classic anxiety dream, of course, but why do I have fears of winging it? That’s my entire life. I wing everything. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be better at what I do if I didn’t improvise everything, but on the other hand, perhaps that would ruin it.

At least that’s my self-satisfying justification. Like it? I made it up on the spot.

The very definition
of marital sacrifice: we had tickets to the Guthrie tonight. Good tickets. See-the-actors’-spittle tickets. The show was “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Childcare problems arose. Wife said: you go. I said: no, you were the one who had all that discomfort during childbirth. Besides, you have to get up for AM feedings. You go.

Are you sure? she said. It took a lot of convincing to make her believe I was sincere, but I was. I wanted her to go. It’s not like it’ll be my only chance to watch Patrick Stewart act from 12 feet away.


I’m writing this on the same iMac I’ve written everything else this year. Nearby, its replacement churns and works. The new machine arrived Friday, and lo, what a beaut. It’s the best Mac I’ve ever had. I popped for the full ride, right down to the flat panel display (The small one, not the forty-gazillion dollar big one) and the jellyfish subwoofer. It’s such an elegantly minimal piece of equipment that I cleared everything off the desk; it sits alone now, serene, untroubled. Set-up contained some interesting surprises:

1. The new Macs come with JFK’s inaugural address. Really. The iTunes MP3 player comes with a batch of spoken-work material, including Dylan Thomas reading his poems, MLK’s “I have a dream” speech, and others. It’s almost as if the machine presumes curiosity, or erudition. I’m flattered.

2. There was a moment of . . . amusement when the external hard drive didn’t mount. Ha ha ha! Oh, that’s rich. Well, it’s not like it has anything important. Just all my MP3s. Just every single one movie I’ve made since August. I told myself that I would profit from redoing the movies - why, I could give them a tighter edit. Clean up the transitions. Sure. That would be great practice. Sure.

Wept with happiness when the drive finally decided to mount.

I’ve spent the weekend on the movies, converting them to DVDs. Designing labels & interfaces. Backing up and backing up th backups. The movies are transferred to fresh tape. They’ll be on DVD soon. I’ll make That’s two copies. I’ll make VHS copies, too. And I still won’t be able to trash the originals. I want eighteen backups of everything. Last year was the Stuff Reduction Project; this year, it’s Project Hard Copy. Printouts of everything, with dupes for off-site archives.

I don’t know why I bother. Going through the old Mac, I found files from 1988. Thirteen years old, dragged from machine to machine, never read, just reincarnated again and again on new machines. And why do I still have them? Right: because they didn’t matter enough to be backed up. Go figure.

New suggested TiVo term: TiVomission. That’s when the machine should record something based on your preferences, but doesn’t. I didn’t know whether to trustthe TiVo to record “The Lone Gunman” tonight, so I set it up ahead of time. I wanted to see if it would figure out on its own that this show should be recorded. In the end, I didn’t trust it. And that’s sad for all of us.

I remember when 800K floppies were replaced by 1.2 or so MB floppies - wow. All that space. Nearly almost sort of double the capacity! I bought a few score and transferred all the 800K data to the 1.2MB discs, saving myself at least three inches in the Shoebox of Data. It didn’t take long for those discs to seem too small, of course. But then came Zip discs, with a brain-boggling 100MB! Wow! All your .snd files on one disk! Of course, eventually those seemed too thick and too small.

Today I just cut to the chase, and before burning the first DVD, I swore: 4.7 Gigabyes? THAT’S ALL?

I first saw “Dr. Strangelove” in college, and it scared me. The inexorable flight of the bombers was one thing, but to treat the subject humorously - well, I thought it was a great movie, but nuculyr combat toe-to-toe with th’ Rooskies was the overriding fear of the era, and the movie was too unnerving to really enjoy. I enjoy it now, but with reservations. It’s really a rather sophomoric movie, with the usual glib self-congradulatory politics of the era, and it has - snort - characters with (giggle) amusing names. A military man named Buck Turgidson! Oh, that’ll show those Pentagon bigwigs what we really think. Kubrick’s direction is all well and good, but of course it’s Peter Sellers who saves it; he’s acting at a level so far above the heads of everyone else in the movie that he brings it all up to caliber, somehow.

Okay, right, blah blah, we all know it’s a classic. I bring it up for a few reasons:

1. The DVD has an interview with George C. Scott and another with Sellers; each is shown in splitscreen, answering questions that are never heard. It was standard practice in those days to send these fake interviews to local stations, who would splice their guy in the left side of the screen and ask a series of scripted questions. Scott, while pretending to listen, performs the most intense yet thoughtful cigarette smoking I’ve seen in a while; people really knew how to get the most out of a Pall Mall in those days. Sellers does the interview in his American President accent - then goes off on a one-minute tour of the accents of England that’s just brilliant. Worth the 20 bucks, if you’re a fan of the man.

2. The DVD also has a small documentary on the movie, complete with interviews with the wife & son of the screenwriter, Terry Southern. They’re quite eager to claim the movie as an example of Mr. Southern’s brilliance, but as the documentary unspools it becomes apparent that Sellers made up most of his dialogue. On the spot. Which makes one even more impressed by Sellers’ talent, and less so of Southern’s. I’m pretty sure he was responsible for making Keenan Wynn mispronounce “pervert” as “prevert.” Ha ha.

3. Everytime you see a favorite movie, you learn something new. Last time I learned that the music - such as it is - was by Laurie Johnson, a Brit composer who worked steadily, did a lot of famous TV, and as far as I can tell never composed one memorable note. This time I noted the name of the movie’s art director: my new hero on earth, Ken Adam. Of course! That incredible War Room set could only come from Ken Adam. The documentaries on the James Bond DVDs have interviews with Mr. Adam, and he looks like Austin Powers’ smarter, more stylish brother. Mycroft Powers. He’s squat, has square glasses, smokes cigars and has a I-don’t-care-if-I-get-ashes-everywhere character. He had the absolute best job one could have in the 60s: he designed lairs for supervillains. He designed the sets for Bond movies, and all that sleek European niftyness in the Connery era was his doing. I can’t think of anyone as influential as Adam, inasmuch as he defined what the non-groovy unhippy 60s movie aesthetic looked like.

Take away his War Room set and Sellers’ performance, and “Dr. Strangelove” is a silly little college-boy skit.


Still upgrading the new machien - spelcheker not yhet installed, so bare with me. It woud;nt have caught that “bare,” anway.

Jasper’s hedgehog lost its squonker many months ago; it no longer issues the panicked grunt of a beast whose fleshis being speared by the fearsome teeth of its blood-maddened killer. Dogs love that sound. It’s almost as good as the hysterical peeping of small rodents, a sound found in most dog toys. But you couldn’t beat that SQUONK. When the hedgehog fell silent I went back to the store for another, but they’d only had a dozen. All gone. Now the stuffing is coming out. Time to say goodbye to hedgehog, and frankly, I’m glad. It’s covered with stiff spit. Dog mousse. Canine tongue-paste. If you throw it at a window, the window cracks.

How he loves that toy. He only has two toys, after all. The other is a rope. In the summer, however, there is a third, as much a metaphysical construct as an actual toy: the Green Tennis Ball. They come in and out of a dog’s life - they disappear one day and turn up in a creek miles away; they get thrown into the alley, never to be seen again, only to be dropped on the boulevard by another passing dog. There’s only one Green Ball. All dogs share it. That’s my theory, and of course it’s nonsense.

Gnat has a lot of toys, but not too many. She has a series of nesting squares which are now at the bottom of the toy box, because she fell over and hit her head on the edge of one, and cried in great surprise: pain? What is this, this pain? Waa! Most of the toys are the high-contrast multi-textured Sassy brand, designed to stimulate developing brains. You simply must challenge the children’s dendrites every moment, so they’ll have giant throbbing Hawkins-strength brains by the time they’re three. If they can’t make the housepet levitate by the force of their will by five, well, they’re doomed to a life of rote piecework in a factory with no fire exist.

These toys are about as loveable as a checkerboard, but that’s just me. One of them - a five-armed octopus I call Quintopus - seems to be her favorite. Stacking cups are fun too. As is the rattle. And the blocks. And the mirror. And the thing that goes whirr. They all get picked up, examined with great seriousness, then banged on the floor and thrown to the far corners of the room.

That’s my morning: read an email. Start to answer it. Check Gnat - ah, she’s fine, sitting on the rug, toys heaped in her lap. Finish answer. Check Gnat: now she’s rolled off the mat, has her face down in the rug, and has strewn toys five feet away. Right the daughter, reassemble the troops, read next letter. Repeat until feeding.

Feeding is going well. She’s a good eater. Omnivorous. Takes the sippy cup like Ray Milland in Lost Weekend, but without the self-loathing or theramin music. As far as I know. Then it’s mush - either Rice, or Oatmeal, or Barley, or Mixed, which consists of dried flaked bleached newsprint. (Contains iron, niacin, and theramin.) Then it’s a little ration of Gerber Boiled Tripe or Mushed Paste or Pureed Water (with thickeners), most of which goes down the right pipe, some of which gets sneezed in my face. I feed her in a chair clamped to the table. I hate that chair. I can just imagine it falling off, but that’s a parent’s lot. God help me when she gets behind the wheel of a car. I’ll just imagine her skidding through an intersection, unable to brake because, after all, she’s only seven months old.

Then we go back upstairs for more work. I try to pretend that she’s never seen these toys before, but no one’s fooled. She has one item that’s full of jingle bells; I like to shake it and tell her that this is de time uf de Pon Fahr; then I roll up my eyes to simulate de Blud Feefer. No, she doesn’t get the reference either.

Usually around nine there’s a complete evacuation of the previous meal. Babies have an astonishing ability to crap in all directions. Up the back. Out the collar. You wouldn’t be surprised to see it shoot from their cuffs. Time to go to the changing table for much amusing dialogue - why, you’ve soiled yourself! (She gives me a big grin) You’re awash in your own filth, yes you are! (Cackle of delight) Triple-dipped in nightsoil! (Big laugh.) After we’ve cleaned up, stuffed the redolent mess down the gullet of the uncomplaining diaper genie and treated the garments, it’s time for a nap. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. If not, I shave and shower to the sound of her wailing, which is no fun at all. If she sleeps, I write. This morning I finished the syndicated column, filed, and started work on the local column.

But I have to go to work, so when she gets up we eat, clean off, bundle up, and head off to her Nana’s, where she spends a merry half-afternoon playing & napping. I run to the office, eat at my desk, and write the column. Before I got this job, I never thought I could write in an office, let along during the day. Then I learned to write during the day, but only the late afternoon. Now I’m in the zone from noon to two. I don’t have any choice. I wouldn’t have it any other way, either.

Home. Play. Sometimes we just sit around and laugh and babble and make sounds, just the sort of oogly-googly stuff I was never able to see myself doing. Now, of course, I can’t get enough of it. Nap. Eat. Clean house. Make supper. Eat supper. I usually eat while cleaning up the kitchen; the daily goal is to have a good meal waiting for wife when she comes home, so she can just push the button on the microwave, nuke my creation, and spend the night with baby without having to look at a sinkful of dishes, let alone a messy house. I owe her that; I don’t get up in the middle of the night for feedings, after all, and I get to sleep in on Saturday an extra hour. Least I can do.

So. Today in the Strib we had a cartoon. Two women talking. One of them says “So I came home and saw that dinner was ready and the house was clean, and I thought I was in heaven.” Next panel: we see they’re sitting on a cloud, wearing robes & halos. “Turns out I was.”

Sexist tripe.

Anyway. I take a 20 minute nap, throw back a few cups of coffee, and walk Jasper while editing the column on the cellphon with copy desk. When we get home from the walk, all the day’s obligations are done. Jasper gets his stick. Gnat gets her goodnight kiss. Mom gets her favorite TV show.

Daddy gets himself a Maker’s Mark.

Damn! I love my life.


There’s a harsh pure beauty to a moonlit winter’s night. The snow glows blue; the ice shines. The sky is suffused with a strange pale light, flowing from the round whitehole in the heavens. I was looking up at the moon tonight, thinking how lovely it was, and how lovely the night was, and how I really hoped I hadn’t broken my arm when I fell on the ice. Well, can’t lie here all night admiring the sky. Let’s see if we can stand.

Yes! I could stand. Whew. Jasper was waiting a few yards ahead - he’d stopped when the leash went slack. I saw the leash skid on without me, automatically rewinding. It was amusing, in that out-of-body sense you get when the inadvertant happens, inadvertantly.

In the email pile tod
ay - most of which I answered with one finger, typing with Gnat in my lap; I’ve assembled a little blinking-light and contrasty-block animation that I run in the corner to keep her amused - was an interesting little letter: subject line “you're a faggot” Text of the message you're a faggot. no one cares about your kid. Now, the author of the remark will remain nameless, right up until the point where I note that he’s "aaronspringer." It’s an amusing little bit of mail - you’d think I had somehow forced his computer to dial up the Bleat, and then tentacles had shot from the monitor, immobilized his pimply little head and forced the little wanker to read. What interests me is that he took the time to write this stupid mail. Why?

I know, I know: Kids Today, so lacking in social graces, etc. Well, it’s not always kids today. Nearly everyone in Minneapolis whose byline appeared in a paper got a nasty letter from a bitter old coot named John Rickard. He was a self-styled expert on everything - especially the weather - and when you wrote something he didn’t like, he’d tell you. The letters adhered to classic crank-format - margin to margin, typed with such violence that the periods usually perforated the paper. You could flip them over and read them like braille. Obscene? My. The man would fly off on imaginary fits of retributory violence, wishing all sorts of death and mayhem and harm and pain to you, all because you’d stated that March was usually cold when STATISTICALLY MARCH  IS  THE  MONTH  IN  WHICH  WARMING  BEGINS  YOU VILE INTENSALLY HATED LIAR. And so forth. The first time I got one, I was stunned - but I was assured that this was a rite of passage. When you got one from old John, you put it up on the office bulletin board.

Ha, ha. A harmless old nut. Right? Well, perhaps. But as off-kilter as he must have been, he knew what he was doing. His letters were hateful. He was a mean old jerk - AND NOW HE’S DEAD. While it is unseemly to dance on anyone’s grave, I’ll just note this:

John Rickard wasn’t half as smart as he thought he was. He couldn’t spell and he had the prose style of Rumplestiltskin. He was known for the hate he sowed, and when he died, people in the local newspaper offices shared their favorite recollections, and everyone laughed. No malice - but no sorrow, either.

There. Let Google scoop that up and cache it for the ages.

Watched the Lone Gunman last night. Was prepared for disappointment; was not disappointed. It didn’t skew wacky, as I’d feared, and while nearly everything was laid on a bit too thick and a little too quickly, they were true to their characters. Everyone has their favorite, i suppose; I like Byers, who seems to carry a great serious sadness. In short: I was relieved. I’m prepared to be impressed. I’ll be content just to be amused.

Note on the score: Does Mark Snow have money invested in Amalgamated Bassoon?


Day three without spellcheck. Be kind.

Yesterday Gnat grabbed a bottle of Gerber Tender Harvest Yuppie-Slush (Mango Beetroot with Kiwi-Infused New Potatoes or some such gunk - it’s amazinghow these people not only have my number, but manage to sell it back to me at twice the value.) Anyway. I turned my back, and she grabbed the container and flung it to the ground. I turned around to see a great plume of pureed goop erupt from the floor and shoot across the room. It - went - everywhere. I was so impressed I got out a tape measure: the highest point was 11 feet, and the farthest point was 14 feet. I called Jasper over and pointed at the goop; I have a dog who looks at what you point at, not your finger, and he’s learned that pointing usually means there’s floor-food for the taking. One sniff: no thanks. Clickclickclickclick into the next room. Took five minutes to clean it off. Meanwhile, Gnat’s in her seat, staring out the window, hands at her side, palms out as though receiving the stigmata. Good thing she wasn’t. Explain that to child protective services.

The “Rear Window” DVD arrived today. Can’t wait, although I will, so obviously I can.

Did Jimmy Stewart’s apartment have a front window? Not that I recall. It faced the interior court, but I wouldn’t call it a rear window. By that definition, every apartment in the movie has nothing but a rear window. And since all these apartments are oriented towards the courtyard, they all have front windows, not rear windows.

This movie sucks already!

Anyway, can’t, but will, wait. The movie just fascinates me for its stagey New Yorkedness - the neighborhood bar, the streamlined buses lumbering past, men in hats on a hot summer night, the everpresent presence of everyone else above and below and all around - and, at the same time, a deafening sense of apartness. It’s probably why I stay in the same quasi-crummy hotel every year when I go to New York. I know the view. I’ve known it for a long time. It doesn’t know me, but I never expect anything in New York to know me, and that’s the pleasure in going there. I have stories about the two of us it doesn’t remember. Gives me an advantage.

For the last few nights I’ve been scowling my way through a six-part Learning Channel history of Rome. I bought it on DVD, since it sounded like just the sort of thing I enjoy - breezy history imparted with maps, busts, panoramic shots of ruins and mosaics, a few slow-mo scenes of battle shot in a forest with some local lads in costume whooping it up. A recent series on early Greece was wonderfully done, and I figured this would be more of the same. Six hours, after all: you can pack a lot of history in that space.

Or, in this case, you can just show the same ruins over and OVER and OVER again and the same stupid shot off an emperor sitting down primly on his throne - he looks like he’s about to empty his bowels in a chamber pot full of baby alligators - and the same insipid music cues over and OVER again. It’s an utter waste. I wasn’t expecting Gibbon, but this is like the Bazooka Joe comic version of the Roman Empire. To sum it up: Rome rose, hung around, and fell. Did you know that Romans were rather brutal in their politics and entertainment, but capable of great engineering feats? Really!

It’s inexcusable. I was promised a rich tour of the monuments of Rome, and I just get the standard sunset flybys. Apparently it would bore people to show us what these buildings look like close up, what they were used for, and what they looked like then. (The extras on the DVD have some reconstructions, but why not incorporate them into the documentary?) Imagine a six-part series on WW2 that consists entirely of maps, pictures of Ike, Stalin and Winnie, a slow-mo shot of three grunts running up a hill, some Patton-soundtrack trumpets and a snippet of “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” and you have this disc. Avoid.

Anyone wants to buy it, I’ll entertain a reasonable offer

Good brisk quick day. Woke slow. Answered all the mail - and bless everyone who passed along a nice note after reading yesterday’s bleat; honest, I wasn’t trolling for support. I used that little neckboil’s letter to illustrate something that always confounds me on the net - the random, dank, nasty vitriol that people blast in the face of strangers. I frequent a few discussion boards, and the level of miserable cruelty is just astonishing sometimes. If these people were clever, it would be one thing; a good fit of invective is enjoyable to read, particularly if the subject deserves it. But these twerps are just obscene, and they have no idea how tiresome it appears, and how boringly ordinary they all look.

Now, Geek talk, for those with nothing better to read.

I’m designing the interface for the first home-movie DVD, and this program - Apple’s newbie-level iDVD - doesn’t allow individualized placement of buttons. I can understand their desire to simplify the process for people who don’t have a clue, but it’s annoying to those of us who have one, if not more, clues. This entire project is quite amusing, in a way; I’m fretting over this first disc - I’m committing to a certain font for all the 2000 discs! Or should I vary them from month to month? Photos for background, or clip art? What of the disc label - should it reflect the interface or should it be a still from a movie? On the way home from the walk tonight, I had two revelations:

1. In the past, guys just shot 8mm, used masking tape on the reel for a label, wrote something like Picnic with kids and tossed it in a box. That was the extent of your interface worries.

2. I have no home movies of my family. None. Yet I remember everything that needs remembering. So even if I screw up the interface and the DVD degrades someday or the medium falls out of favor, it’s safe to say Gnat will still have a rich, happy life.

It’s not like these things are going to Sundance, after all. But. The camcorder shoots in widescreen 16:9 mode. I have a 16:9 TV. I could edit in 16:9 if I got Final Cut Pro. I could really do some nifty stuff if I shot everything wide - man, how cool would that be? It’s like the early home movies on my Treasures of the American Film Institute DVDs - the early color & sound movies of hobbyists and proto film geeks. Panavision baby movies!

I wrote a letter to Extensis tech support this morning. After installing all the geegaws for the graphics program, my invaluable drop-shadow-maker decided to go utterly mental - it would draw a rectangle around the selected object, and give it the drop shadow. Extensis promptly wrote back: version 1.0 is no longer supported.

Oh! Well, that’ll learn me, eh? Here I go and buy a program and expect the people who sold it to answer a simple question down the road. Fine; be that way. You’re not the only drop-shadow-maker in these here parts, mister.

Which leads me to an embarassing admission. This entire site has been constructed with Photoshop LE, which, in Photoshop terms, is about one step up from Colorforms. I’ve been teaching myself Photoshop 5 for some time, and it’s all hopped up on goofballs to me - takes a while to understand, intuitively, this whole layers paradigm. When I would select something and try to drag it, and it stayed right where it was, I felt like Gnat when she grasps at a design printed on her chair.

Back to work. I’ve movies to render and movies to watch. A fine weekend awaits; have yourself one too.