I learned the other day that I’m behind in my newspaper training. We're required to attend a certain amount of classes each year, and I need a few more. Three, to be exact. Happily, some can be accessed by phone; today there was a Lexis-Nexis-Fluxus-Plexis-Whatever training session, facilitated by a sharp lass in San Francisco. It’s really quite amazing, when you think about it. I called up the training session in a browser, and it emulated her screen in SF. I put the phone on SPEAKER and watched and listened. It took an hour. I made a fresh pot of coffee while it was going on; I had my dog at my feet. When she was done she said we could hang up and I did AND NATALIE, PUT YOUR SOCKS ON, IT’S TIME FOR WENDY’S.

I’d promised a trip to Wendy’s tonight, since Mom was at a law-related gathering at the Guthrie. We had fun; the muzak was all late 70s disco hits, and I mortified Gnat by singing along to all the tunes.

Dad stop it, you’re creeping me out.

I upped the soul-face quotient and sang some more.


The Wendy’s had signs praising the life and vision of the founder, Dave Thomas. Who doesn’t like Dave. No one even cares that he went out from a heart attack; they’re good burgers. One of the pictures showed a young Dave standing next to Col. Harlan Sanders, as though the baton was being passed to a new generation of rendered-fleshmongers. Col. Sanders had the blank glazed smile of someone who’s posed for a million such pictures, but Dave has Destiny written on his face. In-and-Out it ain’t, but a little chili sauce, some onions? Yes sir. Yessir indeed.

Then we went home and made up wish lists for Christmas. She’s asking Santa for the Butterscotch Furreal Pony. It’s six hundred dollars. Not going to happen. I explained that it was a lot of money.

“But he makes them,” she said.

“But he might know that it’s not the right toy for you.”

“But it is.”

“But what if it came up the stairs in the middle of the night?”


“Remember how you wanted Amazing Amanda, and she wouldn’t shut up and had to be put to sleep?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Well, imagine Amanda rides Butterscotch up the stairs in the middle of the night and they say We Are Robots And We Want Iron Carrots, or something.”

She started laughing. She laughed and laughed and laughed and when she caught her breath she said “I peed over that,” and indeed she had. For one perfect moment Profession and Fatherhood had come together: I’d made someone pee in laughter, and now I had to clean it up.

At the office today I was talking with the big Lee-Marvin-voiced former Marine who sits next to me; we were discussing Deadwood. He was ticking off the various deprivations people had to suffer in those days, and mentioned “Bad liquor.” I had to demur, thanks to something I saw last night.

If nothing else, the shot shows the extraordinary care that goes into the smallest scene on an HBO show; observe how the bottle is lit. As for that bottle:

Well, yes. And it happens to be a favorite of mine, too.

TV. In a few minutes I’ll watch some TV. I’d love to play Halo 2, but I can’t. Why? Well, the old receiver lacks sufficient inputs for the toys of the latter half of the first decade of the 21st century. Everytime I upgrade one device, it reveals a flaw in another, and the receiver has shown itself to be deficient.

I mention this only because I saw a review of the new Saturday Night Live DVDs, and it reminded me of watching TV in the dorm. The TV sat on my desk. The aerial was pointed in the general direction of the station’s transmitter. It was a black and white portable that used to sit in our kitchen in Fargo; it was on during dinner quite often, something I regret and have banned most emphatically in my own home. Meals are for conversing. In the morning I talk to Gnat while Mom reads the paper – she gets so little time with the Strib I don’t begrudge her that at all – but TV in the morning is a hideous bane, and TV at dinner is a recipe for slack-jawed alienation. (Although my parents did let me watch one TV show in my room, once a week, during dinner: “My World and Welcome To It,” a sitcom based on the work of James Thurber. I was 11; I had just discovered Thurber, and also had a crush on Lisa Gerritson.) When I went to college I took the TV with me; the basement TV migrated up to the kitchen, replaced by an enormous console Zenith with a Space Command Remote –

Ah, crap. CRAP. I know I printed off an ad for that product last week at the Strib. I know the copy’s up in my office. I know I could find it and scan it and upload it and provide a nice little bit of long-lost advertising history to the web right now. It’s not as if there’s not one on the web already. Do I have to?

Of course I do. Be right back.

Okay. Here’s the top of the ad, with a command that must have made Mr. And Mrs. America lock their limbs and will themselves to stop moving:

For God’s sake, stop moving around! You’re distracting Milton Berle! And there’s this:

And they say the 50s weren’t the Golden Age of cruelly manipulative, deadly-clever advertising copy.

The full ad is here. Point is, I now have six remotes, including the one that turns on the fireplace. In the dorm I had no remotes. The channel changer had been stripped, in fact, and didn’t work at all. (The UFH channel changer worked – brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! But there was nothing to see.) I changed the channel with a pliers: konk. Konk. Konk. Konk. I could have gone back to Deadwood, visited the hardware store, picked up some pliers, gone forward a century and used them to tune in the electrical-glass theater.

Is there any tool at the hardware store that could perform such use a hundred years hence?

Well. Gone on too long here; need to stop. Been a good week, a fine week. It ends with a Diner, and this one is a little different. It’s the top ten tunes of the year. I’m not saying which year, of course. I don’t play all the songs – not enough time, not at all, and since I banged this one out in an hour it’s pretty much a live broadcast with no special sweetenings or plot or plan. Just the top ten. The boring old MP3 is here; hit the link below to go to the page with the fancy-schmancy art-embedded edition. If it doesn’t work in the early hours, it’s because the bandwidth thingamadeaily is resetting. Itunes subscribers get it automatically, of course.

I mentioned I was playing around with a stupid sample – I uploaded that tune, too, and it’s here. (Once the bandwidth resets, of course.) I discovered a strange jaunty banjo sample in the Mellotron synthesizer, and I’d never heard it before. (Which is odd, since all the prog-rock groups had a Mellotron. Which is not odd, once you hear the sample.) It took forever to tweak it to the beat, but I was strangely compelled to give this sample a new life. What I added was intentionally grand and dramatic and pretentious; it’s silly and useless, but for an hour tonight I had fun, and I like it. So there.

Have a fine weekend! See you Monday.