Another storm.  A good day to stay inside with a mug of hot coffee and the 40s station on the radio. More bookwork to be done tonight; picked up more material at an antique store yesterday, along with a McCall’s magazine from 1951. The cover says it all: "Six pages of food that the man you love loves." The magazine is huge, too; you don't read it as much as you open it up and climb inside.

It’s warm here now. Jasper is in his usual afternoon place.

Good dog.

Since we last met, Gnat gave her Peace Prize presentation. All the kids are giving presentations on the Peace Prize winners. Gnat got the Quakers. Great, I said. We’ll do a presentation on America’s most famous Quaker – Richard Milhous Nixon! But we ended up doing something about the historical roots of the Quakers, and Daddy kept all his cranky churlish commentary out of the subject. Not that I don’t respect the Quakers; I do, but I have problems with their philosophy. Non-violence is a wonderful ideal if the other side plays along – and yes, I know, you bring them around with your example, and eventually everyone is non-violent. Fine. But if there’s a school shooting, no one wants the authorities to send in the Quakers to set a good example.

This might have been a teachable moment, as they say - a chance to discuss the necessity of respecting people whose beliefs you regard as decent and humane, yet inconistent with your own understanding of the world. But we’ll save that for third grade.

Hah: “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” just came on the radio.

I wanted to get the famous Quaker Oats Quaker in the presentation; I still remember his slogan. Nothing is Better for Thee than Me. I’ve tried that line in my past; never worked. The guy on the box we all know, incidentally, was painted by Haddon Sundblom, the ace commercial illustrator who also painted the Santa Coke to whom we pledge fealty every December. Sundblom’s Quaker was an improvement over the earlier version:

He's calm enough there, but occasionally, when he least expected it, he was struck by something he called "That most Greivous of Maladies, which I doth call The Happy Vapors."

They're having a big Peace Prize assembly in a week, and asked if any parents would like to design the T-Shirts. I volunteered.

Alas, My domestic associates nixed the first design:



Hey, peace is their profession! Oh, all right. (grumble.) So I came up with the generic Earth with the word PEACE in Copperplate, since that’s the typeface the school uses for all its newsletters, but it looked rather stark, and seemed to imply OR ELSE. I did not use a peace sign, which has too many irritating connotations.

As my wife once said in exasperation: Why must you have an opinion about everything?

Actually, I don’t. Well, no, I do, but I don’t always let them spoil everyone’s fun. Volkswagens, for example. I could see buying one. Some won’t because they were made by NAZIS, and others won’t because they were preferred by HIPPIES. That’s a rather broad spectrum, no? I’m right in the middle.

Anyway, this is the T-shirt the kids will be wearing.


It's bulletproof: has all the continents, and it's abstract enough so no one can accuse me of minimizing or exaggerating polar ice conditions. Man, everything's a mine-field these days. Even mine-fields.

So my internet vacation is over; it was nice. Not only did I stay off the web, I turned off the radio and unplugged entirely from the Opinion Grid. I did go to Trader Joe’s, too. The only one in town is crammed into a new development in a first-ring suburb, one of those faux-villes that recreate old inner-city urban models – four-story apartment buildings with retail on the ground floor. It’s quite large, but it’s only on one side of the street, so the sense of density dissipates right away. (Satellite image here; it's an under-construction shot.) I like it, myself; it’s aesthetically preferable to the usual archepelago of strip malls in an asphalt sea. Whether it’s practical is another matter – the complex had a parking ramp, but everyone wanted to park in the small lot next to Joe’s. It had space for 20 cars, maybe 25, so traffic in the lot stops the moment anyone backs out.  The driveway  leads to a small road that connects to another road that leads to the main drag, and the driveway’s too close to the corner, so cars back up in the lot trying to leave. I’m sure it looked fine on paper.

I bought some sauces, including a pasta sauce that turned out to be too brackish for my tastes, and a bottle of three-buck Chuck, which I intend to serve to my French brother-in-law without preamble. Just for fun.   

Now I have to go stand outside in the snow and wait for the bus. More later.

Back. Stood there for ten minutes. Motionless. A silent Zen world of white, with only the street sign for color: STOP.

Another night of snow and work. Did the Hewitt show, wherein we discussed whether the early shots at Romney's Mormonism will burn off that issue in advance of the election season. Not hardly, is my opinion. We started to discuss "24" just as Gnat came into the room with a question, and I was completely thrown off - the question was whether Jack's father would be killed off this season, and I said yes - a stupid reply, really. I should have known better. They have to bank him for season eight.

At eight I poured a glass of wine and got to work. The book is mostly done, but now I'm cleaning it up and arranging the work, and yes, that will take most of next week as well. I took a break to shovel out the driveway so my wife can get to work; while I was working on the drifts a couple came walking down the middle of the street. It was dark, around 10 PM, but it would be unfriendly not to say hello, so I said "I love January. Don't you?"

They said that they did indeed enjoy the weather, and then the guy said "hey, you're James Lileks." That's always nice to hear from strangers, unless of course they're assassins. Turned out they weren't. We chatted for a while, and this being Minnesota, we had some friends in common. I asked if they lived around here; they said they lived a mile away. Out for a walk on a winter's night.

It's lovely out; it really is. The fact that it's March makes it easier: this shall pass, quickly. One last ghastly blast before the tulips stir.

No Diner - it's half-done, but I've too much else to do. So here's a cheap quick old-time radio show for you to enjoy: a Five-Minute Mystery! The case of the Murdered Wife in a Box. Can you figure out the solution while the organist pounds out the interstitial music? (Note: I've listened to a half dozen of these, and I never figure them out.)

New Quirk, of course. Have a fine weekend, and I'll see you Monday morn.