SEPTEMBER 1999 Part 1
Okay: it’s another egg-timer Bleat. I have 17 minutes to write this. At the end of 17 minutes it will be midnight; then comes a walk with the dog through the mysteries of the forest, an upload session, and another attack on the mail. Which ispiled past the rafters: Sunday this site was named the site of the day by Project Sightings, and that led to ten tons of mail. I am not complaining: this happy batch of amateur bilge ‘n’ swill ought not to be included in the august company of the sites they usually chose, but I made the cut. Who-hoo!

Just saved this Bleat, and named it 090199.

Damn: September.



How did that happen? September is always the END of summer, the cutoff. Three eroded syllables that symbolize the low worn mountains that mark the border between summer and winter. Doesn’t matter if school starts the third week of the month, as it did in college; the very word SEPTEMBER conjures up ancient memories of stiff pants, new pencils, hard chairs, worn books. School. Back to school. Back to duty, back to work, back to the routine the adults overlay on the child’s sprawling world.

Hah, I say. Hah! I’m now of the opinion - a pathetic, desperate opinion - that summer really doesn’t end until the 21st, the technical end of summer. For heaven’s sake, it was 80 plus today; it’s warm out there now, and tomorrow looks fine; no reason to think summer has ended just because August handed the baton to a runner dressed in brown. So I will not unveil the Fall makeover of this site until October, because fall is simply not on my radar. Not at all.

Who am I kidding.

The leaves from the big doomed tree in the back have already carpeted the lawn; the sun is starting to drop like a water balloon released from a 50th floor window . . .



In time, sure. But today is not September 1. It’s August 32. Or, better yet: July 63rd. If today was called June 84th, everyone would feel as though the summer was still a going concern. Hey, everyone! Happy May 101! Merry April 143th!

I made those dates up. If you want to check them against the actual calendar, go ahead.

Two minutes to twelve. What’s the rush? Well: work to do, as usual. A column for the Saturday tech section needs buffing, and I’ve been working on a very, very large addition to the Gallery 3.0: the decline of Western Civ as proved by the Gospels of JellO. This thing isn’t going to write itself. I just can’t stare at this tottering stack of cookbooks and make them assemble websites on their own.

Plus, as I mentioned, the dog needs a walk. And I need time in the woods. Not that today was bad; far from it. I went to the government center to get tabs for my wife’s plates; they gave me a number.


Number now served:

Time elapsed between serving 19 and 20:

Ten minutes.

So I decided to run errands. Deposited money in the bank, mailed bills, got some sundries, sped back through the skyways to the gov center, and as I rounded the corner, the man said on the PA system:

“Number 42.”

Charmed life.

Just realized it’s March 195. Brrr. Maybe I should put on a sweater.

DING! Midnight. Off to the woods with my best coyote.

Still August, as far as I’m concerned. I refuse to relinquish even the nomenclature of summer. Humid day, warm night; outside the window the troubadour crickets are in full voice - well, full leg -and the season feels eternal.

This morning I noticed that the vines on my neighbor’s house have started to turn. Just one row of leaves, near the top beneath the eaves - a bright deep red that will seep through the rest of the leaves like a contagion, or a well-made argument, depending on your point of view. In any case, a good night for a summer walk. Could be the last. Of course, you can say that about any day.

But one never does. I’ve never understood those people who advise us to live each day as though it could be one’s last. If you have any sense of duty, this means spending your day paying bills, tidying up your estate, burning diaries, etc. The guilty secret of living each day as though it’s your last is the unspoken certainty that it probably isn’t.

Not that I will burn my diaries; that will probably be done for me, given the dreadful quality of the 77-87 series. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Youth and energy squandered on a laser-like fixation on the navel. Par for the course, I suppose, at least for the post-war generation. Girl trouble, dramatic fear, sweeping euphoria, trite truths, banal observation. The people who really should keep journals are the ones who don’t have the time to do so, because they’re busy doing great things, or catching a few hours of sleep before dawn brings another artillery battle. Nowadays journals are kept by people whose lives are, in general, unremarkable. And that’s fine: a civil society’s continuity depends on a vast amount of unremarkable people doing unremarkable things - IF “unremarkable” gets defined upwards as being a decent, engaged, dutiful parent / worker / sibling et al. In other words, normal. There is no shame in being unremarkable. Most people are unremarkable, and it’s those people’s desire to be remarkable that leads to trouble - without any special characteristics or talents, all they can do is show up on Jerry Springer and trash what few rules & norms still apply. There are few remarkable people in each generation. The cruel lesson of the boomer cult is the idea that everyone is, or ought to be, extraordinary. Sorry. Not possible. Just another collective expression of boomer narcissism.
Die, boomers! DIE!

Sorry, got carried away.

An unremarkable day, and a fine one. Finished the computer review column at work; did this, did that. Endured a moment of silent fuming at the grocery store, when the clerk stopped all scanning to answer the phone. I’ve never understood this: a customer who’s been waiting for ten minutes is instantly ignored when the phone rings. The phone is like a crying baby that will spew poo from every orifice if not comforted immediately, so all must wait while the clerk attends the caller. Bah. That’s what holds buttons are for. That’s what answering machines are for.

Anyway: fixed turkey tacos for supper, not that they were broken (hah! Oh, I kill myself sometimes) and was reminded that I got a phone call the other day from someone taking a survey on Turkey Preferences. It was his lucky day, since I am a great fan of Turkey, the tofu of the fowl kingdom. We chatted quite a long while, and at the end of it I realized I have no brand identification with turkey. This is deeply unAmerican. I buy the cheapest variety - indeed, brands seem superfluous when applied to a commodity such as turkey. I told the fellow as much, but he didn’t have any slots in his response from for that particular bit of crackpot input.

Wrote, read, sat on the porch, walked Jasper in the red light of sunset. Sara came home and walked him again, since it’s such a lovely night. I may walk him once more come midnight; we went in the woods last night, but it felt chilly, and felt wrong - the woods felt preoccupied. This morning I noticed that the park department had come through and cleared out all the underbrush. The forest floor now looks like an empty showroom, waiting for the next fashions to arrive. Up above, high above, at the top of the tallest tree, a leaf right this moment has shut down, closed the shop, tied off the vein, and is a day away from the long circling spiral to the earth. I hope it lived today as if it were the last. One of us has to. Nine PM: boiling. At least up here in the breezeless studio. Just got done with the BBC interview, which was fun; the host made a few cracks about Scottishcuisine, and I nearly derailed my entire bit to deliver a tirade about this joyless PC pinch-britches who e-mailed me a nasty letter today. (Thus concludes my entry in the run-on sentence competition of 1999.) My Wednesday column concerned the deep-fried nature of Scottish food, and contained letters from people who’d experienced deep-fried pizza first hand. Well. This woman writes me a huffy letter about my cultural chauvinism, how it’s appalling that such a thing could be penned, let alone printed, in this age of diversity and tolerance. But it was not surprising, she sniffed, since America is hardly a tolerant place at all.

She’s right, but not in the way she thinks. When you can’t make cracks about Scottish food without the PC police accusing you of cultural insensitivity, we’re in trouble. Look: any culture that comes up with haggis is asking for it. Likewise lutefisk. This is one of the reasons I so often make fun of myself in my columns; at least it’s one target I know won’t send a hurt whimpering letter to the editor. Diversity? Tolerance? They don’t want anything of the sort. They just want to swap the other side’s prejudices for their own.

Grrr. Sorry. I’m a molar-grinding mood tonight, and I’d best not disclose the reason; it’s very, very petty and unseemly, and would appear to be the worst sort of professional jealousy. Never an attractive thing, no matter how correct one might be in pointing out -

I’ve been staring at the screen for five minutes, trying to figure a way to allude to this, and I can’t.

Well. Let’s take a deep breath, scour all the bile from the brainpan, and start again.

Hot. Boiling at noon, humid at night. Took a walk in the park with the dog last night around 12:30; he did not want to go into the dark woods. Just wouldn’t go. Planted his paws: no. Sure enough, a minute later, I heard something large crash through the underbrush on the other side of the creek. Not a human sound. Probably a big fat raccoon; the woods are full of them, lumbering around, disappearing into sewer pipes in a swift blur of shiny fur. Home, answer mail, sigh in despair - 27 letters out, 47 in - then hit the sheets. Up - out - off to work, write the column, home, porch, consider the hard truth of September: the sun now sets after 8. Eight o’clock is the fallback line of summer, the trench to which you retreat when the season has overrun the ramparts of Nine. Now it’s hand-to-hand combat, and every day a small loss, every minute an inch of ground. I’ll be glad of this fact in a few months. I find the darkness of winter a comfort - when it’s black at five (right now, an unimaginable concept) the evening is a cozy time of work and leisure, productive, merry, a warm snug cocoon. But the loss of the day when it still feels like summer seems like a snub, a decision made by bureaucrats. Sorry, sun goes down at 7:49. That’s the rules, they’re posted right there. Nothing I can do. NEXT.

(Warning: the following has nothing to do with the aforementioned reason for unseemly peevishness. This is a completely unrelated bit of unseemly peevishness.)

What exactly does it mean to be smart? This month’s issue of a local magazine has their list of the Smartest Minnesotans, and perusing the compilation I noted a few people who, by any rational assessment, are as stupid as a slumped sack of cement. Perhaps the editors tossed these names into the mix to inspire conversation, or perhaps they’re identifying some variety of “smart” I’ve not yet grasped.

But it’s a good question: what is smart? I think they mean two things: innate intelligence, and application of the same. There are plenty of smart people who are flat-out ignorant because they never applied themselves, many learned people who are naifs and morons outside of their speciality. As the great philosopher Jet Varhar put it: most men live on the brink of ignorance, propped up by a certain esoteric knowledge that sets them apart from the others. But: is the generalist “smarter” than the person who sets their mind to one thing, and understands the one thing better than the generalist understands his interests?
No idle question, since I’m a generalist. Jack of all Trades. Inch deep, mile wide. Today the New Yorker arrived, and I read with relish the three main articles: one on the deeply creepy painter Balthus, another on alarmingly creepy ethicist Peter Singer, and another on harmlessly creepy auteur David Lynch. I knew something about all three before I read the pieces; I knew much less than the authors; I knew a little more after reading the pieces. The knowledge may be evanescent - you never know what sticks in your neural crannies, what gets flushed out with the daily detritus of information. But for a while I had the illusion of being a learned fellow, and I got to engage in that pleasant self-flattering feeling you get when you read something Serious and High-Minded.

Now: is this a rarefied experience open to a select few? Obviously not; the New Yorker is a general circulation magazine. Less so than Entertainment Weekly, obviously (a magazine whose cultural allusions are increasingly lost on me - and when I do get them, it’s not because I’m familiar with the source material, but with another allusion) but still pitched at the Generally Smart reader. Add to this my other daily and weekly reading habits, and I feel I’m well versed in what one should know: the rudiments, plus a few extra fillips. Steak, plus dessert, and something about the homeland of the chef. But the sum total of all this reading and absorbing doesn’t add up to Smart - to me, it’s just the basic system requirements for being a conscious citizen. You ought to know about art, so you can judge the art that will come tomorrow. You ought to know about economics, so the business page does not look like a Farsi anagram. You ought to know about history, so the foreign news makes sense, has a context. I mean, I read a piece today about structural problems in Chinese banking, how the nation’s growth rate was imperiled by sick banks, how Shanghai office vacancy rates were an astonishing 70 percent, and my brain called up two pieces I’d read on the Communist Party’s propaganda campaign to ensure a 7 percent growth rate, and another piece on the fabulous architecture of the speculativeoffice district in Shanghai. Click, click, click.

Then again: so what?

I’ll tell you what. All knowledge is cumulative; all facts are just like Lego pieces. The goal of one’s intellectual life ought to be to fit those pieces together, and never mind the eventual shape of the structure. The people who build flat high walls and perfect parapets out of the pieces are starting with an idea, and fitting the world to shape their beliefs. If you get a messy assemblage whose design is apparent only to you, it’s a sign you’re letting facts impose the order as much as you impose order on the facts. You will not, however, make your mark in the thinking circles. You will, however, find great amusement & interest in nearly everything.

This concludes my elaborate justification for not appearing in the list of Smartest Minnesotans. Have a gud wekend.

It is September. Yes, I know: duh. Obvious to all. But August lingered longand late, and just three nights ago I was walking through the woods with Jasper Dog, wearing shorts and an open shirt (me, not Jasper) basking in the warm breath of a summer night.

That’s gone. Or is it? There’s such a thing as Indian Summer - warm days, unexpected mercury spurts to the low 80s. But you can judge a day by the quality of its night; if the temp goes low, scrapes the basement of the 60s or the attic of the 50s, the heat of noon was just cheap brass. Tonight it’s cool, and the white tang of the temps feels like a twin of the brisk thin wind I felt this afternoon. It’s all a conspiracy, I tell you.

I have no idea why I am writing this. Duty. Obligation. It’s Labor Day, but yea, how I labored - went to the office to finish a column, because family and social obligations (in-laws in town) mean I’m taking some time off. As I sat down I realized I had a computer-review column to write. So I wrote it. Then I remembered I had a review of the new S. King book due. Damn. So I wrote it. Then I wrote the column. Tonight I did the Newhouse column. That’s four damn pieces on a vacation day. Grrr. But: in between tonight’s work and the afternoon labors, I went to Crazy Andrij’s house for the Labor Day feast. Work, WORK, WORK then ahhhh. Steak. Conversation. Sunset, jet noise, stories from friends not seen in a while. Perfect evening . . . home to WORK.

But it’s all done. Now: since I will be busy the rest of the week, I have no intention of updating this site; it just won’t be possible. But on Saturday I wrote a long, and typically useless, Bleat; it has been divvied up into three sections - Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. You can have new content until the Bleat returns fresh & new on Friday morning. You can space it out or gobble it allll up now. If you’ve nothing left on Thursday, you’ve only yourself to blame. Consider this a test.

Tuesday's Bleat:


The cable wen out last night around nine o’clock. When it had not returned by ten, I called the cable company. The recorded message said they were experiencing an outage in South Minneapolis; if I had a problem not related to this outage, press 1.

I knew there was an outage; I wanted to know when it would be fixed. So I pressed 1. Did I want English or Spanish? I pressed English, feeling the usual surge of irritation: whenever I go to Mexico I practice on my Spanish and learn as much as I can, because it would be rude to impose my culture’s standards on theirs. Never seems to work the other way around, though. Whenever I hear the language option it’s another reminder that there are many fellow citizens with whom I cannot have a substantial conversation, because they have no command of the common tongue. Depressing. Waded through more submenus until I got an actual person. I apologized for asking this question, but was there a time-frame on the repairs?

There was not. Fine. I’m sure my bill will be adjusted accordingly.

Went inside to see if I could get the DVD player to work. Last week I watched a movie: Snake Eyes. Brian DePalma, Nick Cage. I had low low expectations, and enjoyed it. Loaded with the obligatory Hitchcock homages; filmed in lovely black and white. I remember thinking it was brave to make a B&W movie nowadays - no wonder the film hadn’t done too well.

Sat down a few nights later to watch “From the Earth to the Moon,” the 10-hour serial on the space mission. It, too, was in lovely black and white. Hey: wait a minute. I rejiggered the cables - switched from the S-video input to the RCA jacks, and voila: color.

So “Snake Eyes” wasn’t in color after all.

I felt like a large, throbbing moron.

Well, now I wanted to watch more of “Earth to Moon,” but I couldn’t get the DVD drive to work. At all. I’d turn it on; it turned itself on. Turn it on; it turned itself off. The faceplate never lit up. That’s it: back to the shop.

Went upstairs to write, figuring I’d watch TV when the cable returned. Ten minutes into a piece, the fuses blew when the AC unit overloaded the circuits again. Back downstairs, flip fuse, decided to read a nice, low-tech book. It’s called “Biohazard” - got it out of the free stack at the Strib. An account of the Soviet biological weapon program. Merry reading. I wonder how many people who showed up in St. Paul to cheer Gorbachev would have been as enthusiastic if they knew he’d signed off on 5-year $1 billion program to weaponize smallpox and Marburg.

Most of them, probably. After all, the US was doing the same thing, right?

Well, no. But that’s irrelevant. I know just where this argument usually leads - Vietnam, napalm, Agent Orange, Dresden, smallpox blankets given to Indians, and eventually all standards for judging civilized behavior vanish; you can’t condemn a modern-day government’s attempt to make a weapon out of AIDS because the conquistadors behaved poorly.

One should always be wary of anyone who excuses a great evil by pointing out lesser evils done by others.

Decided to make a phone call; picked up the Microsoft Phone and hit the Voice Command button.

“Voice commands,” said the phone, “are offline because of a power interruption.”

To sum up: the cable went down, the DVD player was broken, the AC blew the fuses and the phone went offline.

Around 1:00 AM I went into the woods with Jasper.

Everything there worked just fine.

At 1:30 the cable returned, and later I watched some sci-fi TV from 1952. Cheesy stuff, complete with spooky organ music, bad sets, harsh lighting and Burgess Meredith doing his elfin nutcase schtick. Bed.

END of Today's Bleat. If you read more, you'll spoil tomorrow's little moment of meaningless web demi-entertainment. Up to you.

I returned the DVD player. There was still the first “Earth to Moon” disc stuck in the drive, and I explained that I wanted it back.

“It’ll have to go to repair,” said the clerk, who was new. They’re always new. Everywhere you go nowadays, everyone is a trainee. They’ll quit in a month, get another job and be a trainee there; the same fellow who peers in bovine incomprehension at the cash register at Circuit City will, in four weeks, be the fellow squinting at the keypad at Burger King, looking for the medium onion rings button. At any given point in the service economy, half the people not only don’t know what they’re doing, they will never know what they are doing. Maybe they’re all in it for the challenge - as soon as they get a job figured out, it’s time to move along. Seek new challenges, new uniform colors, new configurations on the same blasted MICROS terminal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“It’ll have to go to repair,” said the clerk, and he said this as though it was a warning of some sort. I might want to change my mind once I learned REPAIR was involved.

“You can’t open it here?”

“I’ll ask,” he said. He went away. He asked. He came back. No, it would have to go to repair.

“Fine,” I said, still calm, helpful, and patient. I never want to give these guys the chance to think I’m a jerk. I will not add to the general misery of their day unless it is absolutely necessary. “As long as I get the disc back. It’s not mine.”

We filled out forms. Many forms. A manager was consulted; instructions were given. After ten minutes the computer spat out a sticker. He taped half to the DVD player, handed me the other half, all the while moving with tentative, uncertain moments, as if one wrong move would send him to REPAIR.

“Okay, y’all set,” he said.

Keep in mind that I had walked in with a defective DVD player, requested an exchange as per my rights, and had kindly requested the removal of my disc from the broken unit. At this point in the transaction I had no disc, no replacement player, and a $400 charge on my Amex card. We were not all set.

“Actually, we’re not. I want to exchange this unit.” I pointed towards the EXCHANGE policy, posted three feet away.

The clerk stared at the DVD player, and I could hear the panic boiling in his head - repair an item AND exchange it? Why - such a thing has never been done. It goes against the rules of God, man and Circuit City. It’s like having your cake and eating it too - ILLOGICAL ILLOGICAL ILLOGICAL

He got a manager, and explained the situation: he wants a repair on an item and he wants an exchange? What’s the code for that?

We learned there was no code. There was no sticker. There was no keystroke sequence that would placate the mainframe. We had to treat the repair and the exchange as completely separate transactions. It was a long shot, but it just might work.

After much frowning at the screen and an additional 15 minutes, a new DVD player was set before me.

“Okay, y’all set.”

I waited for the magic words: Sorry. Or our apologies, hope this one works. Or Thank you for giving us another chance, we appreciate it.

See if I ever shop there again.

And let’s say my experience is multiplied by a thousand, and all those folks refuse to shop there again; the store gets closed down. Will it hurt the guy who pissed me off? Of course not; he’ll be waving a barcode wand at a stack of Scotch tape at Office Depot by then. No, it’ll hurt the guys who stayed at the store and learned the trade, knew what they were doing, got promoted and saw customer service as the key to success.

In short, if I blame the store for that one guy, I hurt the very people who are the opposite of that one guy.

Over to Southdale to buy sunglasses. I’ve lost five pair this summer. Might as well go for six. Went to Sunglasses Hut, which has retooled its line of clipons so that none of them fit me anymore. Found a pair that fit well enough.

“Cool,” said the clerk, who had the requisite goatee, brush-cut, freckles and surfer-dude posture. “Want lens cleaner for 99? Regularly six bucks.”

I said that I did, and he gave me a red bottle. I noticed they had blue bottles; could I have one of those? No - that’s not on sale.

“What’s the difference?”

“None,” he said, shrugging. “‘Cept blue is the new color and the red one is like old.”

I gave him a dead level expression, and pushed the red bottle across the counter.

“I don’t know if I can take the public humiliation of being seen with an unfashionable color of lens cleaner,” I said.

He laughed, and it was an interesting laugh: very gratifying for both of us. He ripped the receipt off the printer and slapped it on the counter. “Need your John Hancock on the dotted line,” he said.

I was tempted to say he’d get my Button Gwinnet, but that line never works. Instead I said I hadn’t heard anyone request my John Hancock for a long time, and certainly not someone under 25.

“I stayed away in history class,” he said.

My faith in humanity was now completely restored.

So why blow it by visiting the Gap? I went instead to the Banana Republic, which is the Gap with fewer colors and better fabrics. I found an iridescent shirt and a few other items. Took them up to the register.

“Hello,” the clerk chirped. “Did we find everything today?”

Never give a smart answer to that one. Never give a true answer. Just say yes.

“And do we have a Banana Republic card?”

“No,” I said.

“Did we know we can get 10 percent off today’s purchases?”

“We did not,” I said, “but we don’t want one.”

“Have to ask!” he chirped again.

“We understand,” I said. I handed over my debit card. “One card. Makes things easier.” Especially if we have multiple personalities, I suppose.

END of Today's Bleat. If you read more, you'll spoil tomorrow's little moment of meaningless web demi-entertainment. Up to you.

Thursday's Bleat:


Went to Walgreens. Parked between two cars in a narrow spot, thinking: I’m going to end up with a dinged door. I just know it. Bought stupid soap. My wife bought a ten-pack of Walgreens-brand soap, and I can’t stand the stuff - smells like cheap knock-off talcum powder and cheap store-brand baby oil. When I perspire, it makes for a cloying scent I cannot stand. Makes me wonder why the inexpensive stuff smells lousy - perhaps so we can easily identify lower-class people. If you’re middle or upper, you get to smell nice; if you’re in the lower economic brackets, you have to smell this way. It’s an incentive to better one’s self, perhaps. I mean, there’s no difference between this soap and some other expensive brands, other than the marketing image attached to the high-end soap. But it’s as if they’re saying if you can’t pay for the stuff with the good ad campaign, we’re going to punish you with an identifiable odor.

I bought a bottle of liquid soap, which is the most cost-inefficient stuff you can get. But I liked the bottle.

At the cash register, there was a sign: We Need Fives. My bill was $28. I gave the clerk two twenties, and also produced a five: I’ll trade this for five ones, I said. She looked down at her drawer, realized that she had to give me $12 - and she had no tens. She took out two fives and two ones. This left her with four ones. There was no way I could help her out in the five department - indeed, I’d made things worse just by showing up.

If I hadn’t bought the fancy soap, the bill would have been $23; I could have given her a twenty and a five, thereby increasing her stock of fives.
Soap was at the root of all our problems that day.
Back to the parking lot. The same two cars still flanked me: no dings. Opened my door, and as I leaned in to put the bag in the backseat I inadvertently bumped my own door and sent it pinging against the car to my left. I looked with horror: the car to my left was a new car. Still had the registration paperwork taped to the window.
I crouched down and laid my head against the car, looking for the dent.
No dent.
Somehow, this was all working out to be just that kind of day:
A draw. Tie score. No one loses, everyone wins, and vice versa.

Went to Stillwater again with Sara’s parents. (And, of course, Sara.) Ate at a French restaurant: La Belle Vie. I ordered the sea bass, served with grilled tomato broth, wondering how the hell you grill broth. There was another word on the menu I didn’t understand, but it didn’t sound suspicious, so I didn’t ask. Turned out it was olive paste. Salty olive paste. Add that to the salt in the broth, and the other examples of salt scattered throughout the meal, and it was more or less salted sea bass served in salt salt broth, with olive-salt paste on a bed of pan-roasted sodium chloride. The bread was good, though. Especially with the butter. (Salted.)
Argued, of all things, animal rights with my father-in-law. I was making an argument in favor of treating chickens humanely. I have no problems eating chickens, but I am not happy about the conditions in which they live - it’s not enough to make me stop eating chickens, but I wish there was more public knowledge about the fact so a chicken producer would have an economic incentive to advertise his poultry factories as more human than, say, a Tyson shed.
Suggested ad campaign:
“Our chickens have room to be chickens. They don’t do much, but they do it well. The other guy packs his chickens into spaces so small he has to cut their beaks off so they don’t peck each other to death. We’re not saying our chickens volunteer to be your supper - only that they were happy birds right up to the moment when it was time to turn into the main course. It might take a tough man to make a tender chicken - but, well, pick on your own size, fellah. Montana Farms: happy birds. Good eatin’.”

He seemed astonished I would lavish so much thought and worry on stupid birds, and I admit it is not the most pressing issue of the day. I think people who worry about this issue non-stop have their priorities misplaced. Likewise those who’d never give it a thought. We can’t be carnivores and eliminate suffering; they’re ever intertwined, and I’m not giving up meat. Sorry. But needless suffering is a different matter. If you’re going to be a carnivore, it would seem to be incumbent on you to eliminate needless suffering. Take a lesson from wolves: one quick bite to the throat.

On the way back to the car, I saw it shining in a storefront window.

A Predicta.

I wonder if it’s for sale. Probably not. I have to have one, though. Someday, somewhere, I will own a Predicta. I don’t care if it works, although that would be nice; I just want to have one.

Now the in-laws are asleep, and I’m writing what will be the week’s Bleats. Tomorrow the house will be overrun with two dozen souls coming for supper. (Chicken.)