OCTOBER 1999 Part 1
Quite an amazing week. Began with a catastrophic loss of confidence, ended withchest-thumping King of the World! sensation. Today, for example, it seems that a number of people started paging through their Rolodexes and got bored when they hit LIL; that’s the only explanation I have. On Thursday I did half an hour on a Los Angeles NPR station about Ventura and Pat Buchanan, spoke about hamburgers on the BBC, got a call from KTCA about a TV appearance tomorrow, and was invited to appear on MSNBC to discuss the controversy over the Brooklyn Art Museum exhibit.
A nice spasm of attention, to be followed by obscurity for a while. Of course, MSNBC is not exactly the antithesis of obscurity, but what the hell, it’s TV. As it turns out, I won’t be doing the show; they changed the format, or the topic, or whatever it is they say to you when a better guest called back and confirmed. That’s fine. I really don’t want to get up early and yammer at a camera, although I would have loved to tackle this subject. Of all the things I discussed today, this is one I actually know something about.
So I did the LA show while finishing a column - they would go to me, then go to one of the other guests (John Anderson, 1980 presidential candidate; Sen. McCain’s campaign flak, some editor from somewhere, some droning editor from somewhere else) and then CRRSCH the line would go hot, and I’d be on. Fun. I attribute today’s odd media blitz to one thing:
I’m available. Never underestimate the attractability of availability to bookers.

But as I said, the week began with an interlude of misery - on Tuesday all my mail was angry and contemptuous; everything I read said U SUCK or a variant on the theme. The last one I read was the clincher - about 700 words from a woman who’d just lost her husband to a heart attack and didn’t find my Sunday column - which dealt lightly with micardial infarctions - funny at ALL. She just took me apart. I felt so bad after that I could not write anything; all sails went slack. I wrote an apology, put it in the column, slunk home. Felt like a heel.

But Wednesday was restorative. An old college chum (and only old college friends can be called “chums;” the word doesn’t fit anywhere else anymore) came to town. Haven’t seen him for 21 years. Twenty one years! Nations rose and fell in the interim. He’s been reading the Bleat since he found this site, so he knows exactly what I’ve been up to, and consequently I had no stories to tell. But he did. A sharp and clever fellow then; a sharp and clever fellow now. We walked around the lake with Jasper, had supper at a local Italian cafe, sat at the kitchen table hoisting potions and talking. Got around to old times, eventually; by then my wife was home, and she provided the catalytic element that brought out old stories. It was a pleasure to revisit year one of college, but more fun to romp around the present, and find the friendship now, as then, has its roots in the meshing of gear teeth, not just being side by side on the same axle for a few turns.

Tonight I walked through the crepuscular light to the hardware store to get some keys made. Took Jasper. They welcome dogs in this store; they have treats for good pooches. Jasper got his treat, then followed the clerk around as she made the key. He made a nuisance of himself, so I attempted to distract him - I pointed to a mound of squeak toys, big furry hedgehogs that gave a wet grunt when squeezed. Big mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking. He saw them, fetched one, and bit it, hard: BRONK. I put it back, not wanting him to slobber it up, and the dog turned into a four-year-old in the toy store. He sat and glared and barked. Bark. Bark. BARK. BARK! The dog equivalent of a tantrum. I looked at the price: $7.99.
Sigh. I gave him the hedgehog. He sat down and began killing it - and happy day, it was one of those immortal undead furry creatures. Bite all you like, it’ll still keep screaming in pain and fear. I paid for the keys and the hedgehog and we went home; Jasper pranced all the way, tail up, hedgehog in his mouth, utterly happy. Didn’t stop to sniff anything on the way. He would stop, drop, pounce, bite, then continue on.
You have to wonder how much they know. (Dogs, not stuffed animals.) When he was sitting in the kitchen making the toy BRONK in pain, we laughed and laughed; he got annoyed, whined a little, then barked in anger and went in the next room to play in peace. (BRONK.)
Did he sense the amusement and read it as ridicule? No. But yes. Perhaps.

This week has seen a few perturbations. The ISP has been contruding with my pleasure - for a couple of weeks it’s been impossible to dial up after 10 or 11. They say it’s the switches in the phone company. They’ve given me a modem script that should work by forcing my connection speed down to 33 kps. Oh, joy. That’s great. Since I’m bumping up against the 100 MB limit on this site I asked for more, and was told I’d have to buy 200 MB, doubling the cost to $60. Apparently disc space only comes in 100 MB increments. I told them I’d been quoted a price of $30 for 200 MB by another company; would they care to match it? They didn’t seem to grasp the concept. Match their price, keep your business . . . okay, there’s something here I’m not getting. Your point is?
This weekend I will be moving the entire site over to Interland in Atlanta. Their website has a picture of the building where they live; I like the idea of lileks.com living in this skyscraper in Georgia. I might go visit it some day.
God, I love the modern world. And it’ll only get better! When we discover subspace and develop faster-than-light communications, I can keep my web site on Pluto.
Saw an old Star Trek last night, one of the laughable 3rd season episodes where Scotty gets soggy over a lass who also happens to be possessed by the Lights of Zetar. Nothing is less romantic than Scotty in love. (I will always prize his explanation of her tendency to collapse and speak in tongues: “Ach, it’s noothin - just speece, that’s all. It’s speeeece!”) Stupid episode, but it has one scene that never fails to creep me out completely: a woman speaking in this horrid gargle, her mouth contorting in a most unnatural fashion. She looked like Fanny Flagg getting a rectal exam by the Roto rooter Man. I saw that episode when it first came out: pure old-fashioned nightmare fuel, in the words of Crow T. Robot.
Geek quiz: link those last two sentences together. They have one word in common. If you know the movie MST3K was doing, it’s simple.

Off to work. I’ve finished the Almanac monologue; now I have to polish this bleat page and work on the History of the Institute of Official Cheer, coming soon. This is a new project that has possessed me for reasons I don’t understand, but why fight it? I’ve come up with fake ads for the Institute, and it’s been an excuse to dabble in the advertising styles of different decades. It’s all part of a New and Improved Institute, coming soon to a browser near you. About 27 inches from you, if you’re following ergonomic guidelines.
And just think: it’ll all be living in Atlanta. What a curious, curious world.

Dinner . . . a movie. A Vikings game. Bright sunshine. A few insights on a book I’mreading. Will I discuss any of this? Tomorrow, perhaps. For now I bring you the grim, unsatisfying account of trying to get this site up and running from a FUSTERCLUCK of Brobdignagian proportions. Herewith the nightly log:

5:45 PM Crap. Just signed on, checked the homepage. They switched it to interland.net ahead of schedule BEFORE I could mirror the site. Damn, damn, damn. Damn. I am scaaaa-rued. I was told I’d get e-mails telling me my IP addresses and password information. I had not gotten them as of this morning, before the switch was made. So now I’m in the dark. No way in. Better call tech support -

7: 30 PM After being on hold for 25 minutes, I got a sprightly-voiced tech. She understood my problem, promised to send the info to the AOL account. Fifty minutes later: no letter. So: I can either start a tech support call now, wait half an hour only to find the e-mails in my box when I log on later, or go for an errand and hope they’re there when I return. This means the uploading will not begin until 8:30. Minimum.

I am electing the latter option. Will now run errand.

7: 50 PM Back from errand. No e-mail. Sent another. Will wait ten minutes, then begin the Long March to tech support. When was on hold before, I heard no less than 15 reminders that my call was very important to them, and that’s why they weren’t answering. Grrr. Since I can’t talk to a specific tech, this means that by call #3 I’ll be ready to kill someone, and the victim will be innocent.

On the other hand, under the concept of original sin, we’re all guilty. I will use that as a comfort when I take his or her head off.

Well, AOL just froze on me, so I had to kill it. Better restart the computer and start with a fresh slate.

8:05 PM On hold at tech support. If this call goes as long as the previous one, I’m going to be walking around tomorrow with my head cocked to one side, cradling the phone. Damn these little ads - every time the music stops and there’s a break, my heart leaps - will this be it? Is it MY TURN? No. But it’s great to know they’re now an authorized reseller of web servers! Glad I learned that! Seven times!

Might as well get in a little scanning while I can. If - whoa; someone just beeped in on call waiting. Too bad, buster. Take a number.

8:30 Technical call concluded. The tech’s headset kept squealing. He had bad people skills - long pauses where I didn’t know if I’d insulted him, or been disconnected, or said something that made no sense whatsoever. Finally he just gave me my user name, password and IP address.

“Why couldn’t I have gotten those over the phone the first time I called?” I said.

“We’re not supposed to give it out over the phone,” he said. Then he laughed a laugh of inordinate glee. Not the sort of laugh that makes you want to join in.

I thanked him and hung up. Called up my AOL account, just for grins.

There was the mail with my IP address, user # and password.

So I call up my transfer program; input all the info. It accepts my user ID but says I have the wrong password. While trying again, I review the information sent to me, and discover they’ve set up my e-mail as lileks@lilleks.com.

Go downstairs, pour tumbler of Absolut. Call tech support for call #3.

Elapsed time: 3 hours, five minutes. Percentage of 87MB uploaded thus far:

9:10 PM. Got the same damn tech support person. What are the odds? 50-50, if there’s just two of them, I suppose. He told me that they do not support Anarchie, and his tone of voice suggested that only goat-raping grave-robbers use Anarchie. Everything worked fine on his end. Could I please leave now? There were other customers waiting to be blown off.

9:17 Call up AOL, thinking I might use their wretched FTP program. I get in! Joy! I start to upload the site, and remember the problems I had when my site was on AOL. It’s a multi-step method to upload: enter file name, chose transfer method, press enter, get dialog box to select file, get another box to select file, select, enter, enter, wait. That’s for one file.

The Gallery alone has 627 files.

The Gallery is being shipped to New York publishers.


This was NOT supposed to happen. First of all, I thought the site had been shipped around weeks ago. Weeks. Second, I was told by my new host that I’d get the info before the DNS entry changed, so I could have the site in place when the entry changed.

Nothing is working out, except this: I have an entire night of entering filenames ahead of me. I am not happy. Not at all.

10:27. We begin.

12:07 AM We continue. Irony of ironies: the local ISP, which has been forbidding me access in the evening hours over the last few weeks, not only let me in tonight but gave me a big fat pipe with the throughput of a storm drain. It looks as if I’ll get the entire Gallery up , and that’s what counts. Tomorrow I can worry about everything else, although as a good diligent geek I will create folders for every other index page, and post apologies. ANYTHING to avoid a 404.

So: no mail, no ancillary sites, no updates, no nothing. Please pick up your mug of coffee or tea and wave it at the screen, a salute to my nocturnal labors. That’s all I ask. MAIL might be working, but I cannot guarantee it.

Why do so many basic technological endeavors end up as complex as moon shots? Hmmm? Ah: the Bureau is done. The Dogs go next.

You know, I might get this entire site up tonight. In which case all this drama would go unnoticed. If there’s a menu and a mailto below, then all is fine. In any case:


Saw “Double Jeopardy” this weekend; the trailers suggested it was “Fugitive III,” with Tommy Lee Jones reprising his role as Tommy Lee Jones. It was not that movie. It was a chance for Ashley Judd to be sweet,steely and dewy all at the same time, and it had an interesting supposition: one can shoot a gun in a room off the main lobby of a small hotel, and no one will notice. (Don’t worry, I spoiled nothing.) It was just the sort of manufactured Hollywood dreck I hate, but . . .I didn’t hate it. I didn’t stand up and cheer, but aside from a few stupidities I sat back and let it flow through me, like a sucrose transfusion or a decaf enema. It’s a Lifetime movie with a big budget and a Philip Glass score. (Don’t know if he actually did it, but whoever did it owes him 50% of the fee.) And Tommy Lee Jones was okay - he was acting as if he was atoning for his Batman & Robin overacting.

That was Saturday. Friday night Sara and I watched “A Simple Plan,” one of the more depressing movies ever put on film. Pretty good, too. Score by Danny Elfman, very unElfmanlike in its spare plinking quality; nice chilly photography of cold frozen Minnesota, although watching it in October felt like watching a film of Hell after you’d learned damnation was inevitable. I’m really not looking forward to winter. No sir. Sara said she rented it partly to steel herself for the coming season, get herself acclimated. I turned the heat up twice while watching the movie.

Friday was a good day - did Almanac, which was a pleasure, although I made a key mistake before show time. I edited the monologue to remove a line that had struck me as superfluous during rehearsal. Four minutes before show time I realized that the punchline of the monologue was a callback to the line I’d taken out. Uh oh. Back into the control room, frantic editing, run to the studio, huff huff huff YOU’RE ON! I started talking, hoping the line came up on the prompter. It did. Hoorah. Drove home in the twilight drizzle and realized that Friday after TV is one of my favorite times: the door of the house is open, wife and dog are waiting, pizza’s already there, the week is over and the weekend awaits. Perfect.

Saturday I coded & wrote and futzed with the next Institute addition, irritated with myself for doing it in the first place. This was not something I needed to do. It all began when I was playing around with making a fake ad for the Institute circa 1955; once I did it to my satisfaction, I thought, well, let’s try some more. The end result is of limited interest, and it’s huge - these ads get as big as 100K. Well, it was fun to do. At first. Then like everything else it became a bright serrated pain in the ass.

Sunday was . . . loud. Went to the Vikings game with the Giant Swede. We wedged ourselves into our seats and watched the Vikings score three touchdowns right below us. Hooray for us! The experience curdled quickly, though - too damn loud and too damn stupid. Football is better at home, frankly. Or in an outdoor setting. In the bright sealed Tupperware bowl of the Metrodome, it’s an arid sterile affair, unreal - it was like watching someone else play a computer game. The second quarter was a dull interlude of murky plays conducted on the other side of the field, three miles away.

“I need some coffee,” I said.

“Want to go at the half?” said the Swede. And you know, I did. So we left.

The Vikes never scored again.

We went to Caribou and drank coffee outside. Much better than sitting in doors, and no one had their face painted. Well, some of the women. Went to CompUSA and looked at the G4s; I sighed and winched my tongue back into my mouth. Went home and - well, that was yesterday’s bleat. Site restoration until 2:17 AM.

When all was finished I punched up a movie I’d recorded a few nights before. A very curious movie: “Seconds,” starring Rock Hudson, directed by John Frankenheimer. I don’t know if this was his first movie after “Manchurian Candidate,” although like that film it did have Wo Fat in a small, crucial role. (I love that guy. Keigh Deigh, I believe his name was. Just a charming fellow. Not Chinese at all, despite his roles. Now dead, I’m afraid.) The movie was about a grey-flannel-suit fellow who gets sucked into the web of The Company, an organization - sorry, a Shadowy Organization that takes unhappy middle-aged men, reconstructs their face and life, and gives them a second chance. The hero wakes up to find himself looking like Rock Hudson. He does not adapt well. The viewer thinks: you moron. Cheer up! You look like Rock Hudson! Get to work! Enjoy! At the end he gets shot in the head . . . I think. The tape ran out before the movie did. I’ll have to wait for it to roll around again.

I only watched it because of the director. He used some unusual angles, and employed one peculiar effect: he mounted his characters on dolleys and had them towed around, then shot them over the shoulder as they moved through the crowd. So they moved while their bodies were completely rigid. When I first saw this in the opening scenes (shot in Grand Central Station in 1966 - priceless views of mid-60s New York, complete with hanging Reingold Beer ads) I thought: hmm, that guy’s on a dolly. It was supposed to make the character lookstrange, unworldly and implacable - but then he used it in a scene where Rock Hudson is supposed to be staggering drunkenly through a party.

I guess he just liked the way it looks. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Tomorrow the remodelers come for the second consultation. The companysends two - a man and a woman, both buffed and scrubbed and happy-clean. They have a can-do attitude, but they’re also wary and a bit vague - their job is not to do the remodeling, but get us to commit to the remodeling. Once that’s done they’re off to another family of hopeful, yearningpeople who think they can build a three story addition for $1.97. Tonight Sara and I sat down to figure out what we wanted. Bottom priority for me: double garage. Top priority for Sara: double garage.

Who will win?

Married men: can I get an UH-HUH! Married women! Can I get an OH YEAH!

We walked through the house, and I described what was and was not practical. I mean, everything’s possible, but I don’t want to pay for ten hydraulic jacks to keep the house level while they remove 90 percent of the load-bearing walls. As long as I get my glass-block shower, I’m happy.

We’ll see. I have the feeling that at the end of this whole event, we will have a double garage, a glass block shower, nothing else, and a doubled mortgage payment.

But where will we go? How will we live? If we have to move away while the work is done, what will we do with Jasper dog? He’ll have to come with, of course; there’s no way we’ll board him for two months. (Or three, since that’s how long it will take.) (Make it four.) He’d forget everything. All our history lost. Of course, most of our history is lost anyway; dogs tend to upend their mental etch-a-sketches with greater frequency than humans. But I treasure the illusion that our history stretches back unbroken. We’ll have to find a house. I’ll have to use naught but the iMac for work, which means I’ll have to lay in a supply of scanned material for website updates . . . ach.

This makes no sense. I’ll be committing to a family room with an AV system that has to accommodate HDTV, even though I won’t buy a set for years. My only request: an access panel behind a hallway wall so I can futz with the cordage. Tonight I was once again on my belly rearranging wires behind the VCR & TV, squinting in the dim light - is this a white RCA plug? Yellow? In the addition I want an access panel, and halogen spots.

There’s another grand. Five. Ten. Do I hear twenty?

Why two small people with one small dog feel it necessary to double their house is beyond me . . . no, I understand why. We want something bigger and better, and we don’t want to move. Ever. Ergo.

But why do we want bigger and better?

Spare me the grim sad sermons on American greed, on heedless consumerism run wild. By God, I ought to get a medal: instead of moving to the Suburbs, adding our cars to the stream of metal heading out to Dreaded Sprawlville, I’m committing to the city. Even so, I’m the enemy, since I live in an economically homogeneous neighborhood. Or so says current thought among right-thinking people.

But I prefer economically homogeneous neighborhoods. In DC I lived in a neighborhood that was poor, middle class (mostly single yups and DINKS) and rich folk who came for the old rowhouses. The rich lived behind gates and Dobermans. Never saw them. The poor had two styles - either they were Strivers, clawing their way up to the middle class, or they were steeped in underclass pathologies and peed all over everything. (Literally.) The underclass regarded the Strivers as traitors to some fantastical notion of imagined solidarity; the Strivers regarded the slackers with naked contempt. Each group was destined to move away to a place where their culture formed the dominant flavor of that particular stratum - the elites would flee to gated communities, the middle class and the Strivers would end up in safe sane neighborhoods, and the underclass would stay there forever. This has nothing to do with race, by the way. It’s all about behavior, individual will, and which attributes of one’s culture you choose to embrace.

I prefer the middle-class world - the bigger the castle, the less likely the inhabitants will mingle on the sidewalk on an autumn afternoon. The broad lawns are moats, the oaken doors thick drawbridges, to use obvious analogies. My neighborhood was built as a middle-class neighborhood, but prices, taxes and proximity to the lakes have pushed the price up - it’s now the domain of the management class, the lawyers, doctors, flaks and hacks. But rather than exalt us, the character of the neighborhood humbles us all. Straight streets and sturdy square houses, old trees and the ancient creek. We’re all just passing through, and it’s up to us to keep it civil, keep it livable, keep it humane. I don’t care what my neighbor looks like - in fact, I’d dance a jig if I livedbetween Indians, Vietnamese and Thai: imagine the potluck suppers we could have! I weep at the thought. As long as everyone can afford to keep their fence from falling over and their shutters from sagging. That’s all I ask. Give a nation common goals and a common tongue, and nearly everything else eventualy melts away into irrelevance.

I hope we can afford Corian counters.

E-Mail is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Don’t you love opening your mailbox in themorning and discovering that everything you sent yesterday bounced back? Last night I finally configured my programs to fetch e-mail from the new host, only to learn I had ZERO letters. Hmm. Not right. I sent myself mail from my AOL account, and it came back a day later, noting, quite correctly, that lilleks.com did not exist. This means that the moron at tech support did not fix the problem. Normally, I’d let it slide, but this is the guy who gave me the high hat when I called twice - calmly, I should add - for assistance with other matters.

It should work now. I was on hold for 45 minutes again today, but I got a stalwart fellow who just oozed geekability.

Meanwhile, various areas of the site remain hosed. Apologies. It’ll take me weeks to hunt down all the errors, but the end result won’t just be a better lileks.com - on the contrary. It’ll be the exact same lileks.com. My promise to you!

I want to be a captain of industry. I want to snap my fingers and make things happen. I want to jet off to the Caymans and run my empire from a beachside hotel while laborers reconfigure my house to my exacting specifications, and damn the expense!

But I am not such a fellow. Hence I will be living in a gutted drafty house in the middle of winter while laborers plink away at the reconstruction, and all the while I’ll think: damn. The expense!

We met with the Remodeling Duo tonight. Nice people. Really, really nice people - smart, with good ideas. I’m sure they’ve seen dozens like us - we want to make the big leap, but we’re caught between terror and ecstasy. One moment we’re recoiling from the cost and the angst; the next we’re envisioning radiant-heating coils in the floor. When I learned we could get actual marble counter tops for a sub-Corian price, I nearly wept - and it got better! We could get matching marble trim on the fireplace for $150! Such a deal!

Then I thought: this might be the equivalent of 40 percent off undercoating for a new car.

But I trust these people. The firm has a long solid reputation, and they admit they’re not the cheapest; you pay for a dedicated crew that shows up daily and finishes the work by a guaranteed date, with a crew chief who’s on call 24-7. I like the fact that they don’t have an ad in the Yellow Pages, yet they’re booked up through the end of the year. I could possibly do better; I could do cheaper. But I don’t think I could do better and cheaper.

We all shook hands, paused at the doorway, and Sara and I explained WHY we wanted to do all this. I’m sure they hear this all the time: nervous homeowners attempting to talk themselves into this, soliciting reassurance that they’re doing the right thing. I looked through their big book of completed projects, and I’m here to tell you that remodeling is often NOT the right thing. Some of the jobs were butt-ugly, by my lights. Well done, of course - quality work. But obviously done at the behest of a client with A Vision. I asked them: what if I want a fireman’s pole in the middle of the living room?

We can do that, one of them said, reluctantly. Then he told a story of renovating an attic, finding an octagonal arrangement of dormer windows in a witch’s hat pitched roof, and how he prevailed upon the client not to add a suspended ceiling. Message: I will do what I can to save you from your own idiocy. Up to a point.

Money can’t buy love but it can buy house, and if this all goes as planned Lileks Manor will be a nice little cottage. With a doubled mortgage payment.

But with radiant-heated floors!

Stay tuned.

Otherwise: fall. Bright; cool, a preoccupied sun. Perfect moment of the year - the tree across the street is fully inflamed, a tall torch due to ignite the rest of the neighborhood foliage. The balance has not yet shifted to all-brown; green still predominates, be it the trees or the grass. Persistent snow is still forty 24-hour cycles ahead. I was in a glum mood today, for no particular reason - it seemed as if the long sharp claws of winter’s depression were starting to find purchase, but the excitement of the nightmare ahead gave me new glee. Nothing combats incipient mild depression like the opportunity to choose marble counters and design a hardwired sound system.

A brushed aluminum firepole. Why not?

Big news today. Big, big, large big news. But first, this announcement:

I give up. No more. I’m shutting down lileks.com for good at the end of the year. No more updates and no more projects and no more scanning and worrying about type faces and type sizes on different browsers. No more fretting over browser resolutions, web-safe palettes; no more configuring, no more scanning, preparing, writing, arranging, dialing, enduring, redialing, uploading, reconnecting, uploading again. No more e-mail errors, no more unable to connect to server, no more busy signals, dropped connections, hours on hold to tech support. No more! NO - MORE.


God ALMIGHTY this is the most gruesome, miserable, unsatisfying hobby a man could have. It’s like building a model train set and having the trains REFUSE to go because the little model engineers are ON STRIKE. Every FREE FARGIN’ HOUR this week has been spent dealing with technical contrusions, and I’m just sick of it. I can call in to my local ISP, but it thinks lileks.com is the old version on its servers. Why? I have no idea. It gives me Monday’s index page and does not recognize updates. Why? I have no idea. I dial in via AOL, and it calls up today’s page. Providing I can get into AOL, of course; I’m getting a rapid-busy since 10 PM. Why? I have no idea. Mail is a different matter - the password I used last night when accessing the mail server through AOL does not work today when I access the server through my local ISP. Why? I have no idea.

And I don’t care. I hit the wall and the wall won.

Am I serious? Nes. Yo.

And now, the news:

It was 78 degrees today. Let us pause and repeat: Seventy-eight. A mere two degrees shy of 80 on the seventh of October. Not that unusual, really; we’ve seen warmer temps, later. But today -

Just went outside. At eleven:15 PM, it’s shirtlessly warm out. Practically humid. This calls for a walk into the creek with the ever-willing Jasper Dog, and soon we’re off. To continue -

Weather like this has an odd effect in the first half of October. The air has the aroma and character of late spring, or early solid summer. It’s a scent not sniffed for weeks. Not unfamiliar. But it was something we’d given up for lost, a sign of a season that had surely fled. To smell that perfume again so close to the end of summer was almost cruel; it’s like having a lover who dumped you call up four weeks later and express mild reservations. It’s delicious and it’s painful, but the swell of your heart crowds out your reservations.

It is now 11:30 PM. I am on hold with tech support. i’m writing this with the Intermittently Useful Microsoft Phone cradled in my neck, meaning, I’m looking at the computer screen at an odd

It is now 12:02 AM. Just got off with tech support. Got a tech who dropped the last two syllables of every word, underenunciated, and had the microphone tilted up towards her eyebrow. She was impatient with my constant stated requests to repeat herself, even though I delivered every line in clear crisp Broadcaster Standard. She never had to ask me to repeat myself. It took me five times to figure out that Ahgo inna neskay meant “I’m going into Netscape.”

Ah channit inyoy adminpay = I changed it in your admin page.

Thadressis mayduh lyluhcullah ettywuh ettywuh - The address is mail.lileks:8181

She assured me that the change was immediate, but that I might wannacleamacash. I replied that I always cleamacash when I was havn prolms wimmamail. I’m used to southern accents. I do not need to reboot the Universal Translator when I hear an Alanna Joja axxen. But this was ridiculous.

Like I said: it’s done. Over. No more. Finis.

Last night while uploading to this STUPID POINTLESS SITE I happened upon a VH-1 documentary on Fleetwood Mac. They’re a group that holds nearly nil interest to me, but I am a big fond fan of Lindsay Buckingham; I think he’s, well, fabulous. Cold precise guitar, chilly production, anguished vocals, classic song structures - ma kinna sier. (My kind of singer.) Fleetwood Mac’s success was largely due to his production skills; he gave cohesion to Stevie Nicks’ gassy swirls, made McVie’s wistful laments sound wry, pure and wise. He made the pedestrian drumming a featured player by shoving it up in the mix, and he buried his own leads just enough that you wished they were louder. I had my wireless headphones on at the time, and went downstairs to the box that held the old unloved CDs. Found “Tango in the Night.” Also found a Nile Rodgers disc, and “Love Over Gold” by Dire Straits. Set them aside.

On the way to work this morning, listened to “Big Love.” Great tune. Just a great song. All Buckingham. On the way home this evening, I played “Telegraph Road” from the Straits album. (I used to practice daily to that song, learning the leads and the licks.) Realized again that Knopfler trumps Buckingham, period. Buckingham read the guitar like an alphabet, and wrote brilliant prose; Knopfler read the frets as if they were undiscovered fractions. He has a riff that kicks off the guitar intro of “Telegraph Road” that’s nigh unduplicatible; it sounds like smoke turning to flesh and evaporating into fog and dark fire - then he bangs a minor key note that casts into doubt everything he just did.
This marvelous aesthetic moment concluded when I pulled into the liquor store parking lot playing FM-radio staple “Industrial Disease” at full volume. Now I was just another aging head-banger.

But a few blocks before I’d driven over the highway bridge, looked down on the roads leading into and away from the towers of downtown Oz. “Six lanes of traffic,” Knopfler sang, “Three lanes moving slow.”

Damned if that wasn’t just what I saw. But this time I heard it.

Home. Supper. Walked Jasper Dog in the fading light. Came home, sat on the porch with a cup of coffee, feet up, reading the French Revolution book, just like early September. Just like late August


Then I turned on the computers, and . . .you know the rest.

Is this the Bleat finale? The end of the site? We’ll see. I’m not tired of the Bleat; I’m just tired of the pointless botheration. On the other hand, I did scan 17 MB of additional material for the Gallery 3.0 tonight.

Just in case.

As for why I get my old web site when I call up my local ISP, I can only quote my new host’s tech support:

Aynno, thastrain.

Aynno either, and I agree; it is strange. Strain, too.

It’s 12:30 AM. I can try to upload this, or head into the creek with Jasper.

Not even close, that one. Not even close.

See you Monday. Probably. Maybe. Possibly. Perhaps.

Jasper ran away from home yesterday. Just for a while. I’d left him in the back yard while I did some work inside. Then I heard a Jasperesque bark outside, and it seemed to be coming from down the street. I went outside - no dog! I checked the back gate, the front gate - locked! Panic! He’d apparently entered the neighbor’s yard through the hedges (the fence was removed last spring) and slipped out their side gate, which sometimes opened on its own accord. I ran out front - no dog! I imagined him gamboling in the creek, having a fine time chasing squirrels, trotting along, trotting away, away, until he’d lost his route to home.

JASPER! I yelled. He’s slipped out before, and usually comes bounding home from a neighbor’s yard.



I heard a bark - his bark - in the back yard. Huh? I ran back - no dog. JASPER! Again the bark. It seemed to be coming from the garage. I ran to the garage, imagining him pinned behind a fallen rake: no dog. JASPER!


It was coming from behind the fence. I opened the gate, and there he was, tail wagging in confusion and dread: he knew he was in trouble, but he was happy he was home. (Wagging tails are perhaps the most misunderstood bit of canine body language.) He’d probably been there for five minutes, waiting for someone to come. As some fine writer put it: a door is what a dog is always on the wrong side of.

I told him he was bad, and he knew he was bad, and I marched him inside. It’s an odd sort of fury that comes over one - relief and horror and relief and fear and relief and wretched what-ifs and surely-will-be-somedays. All you can do is issue a few stern words and leave it at that.

Cooler day, murky sky. Went to film the destruction of the old Physicians and Surgeons building, and found it already destroyed. Just a few construction vehicles feasting on the rubble. Twisted rebars and shattered bricks. I stood and tried to fix the spot in the P&S stairwell from which I’d taken pictures of the Conservatory across the street. (The Conservatory was knocked down two years ago.) That location may not be inhabitable for another 30 years. If that segment of space is occupied by a thick wall and some pipes, no one will stand there and have the view I had that winter afternoon in 97. Even if they did, the view would be different. The actual physical space remains, but everything else changes. Everytime a building gets knocked down, a numberless amount of views are lost forever. And a new set is created.

I’ll never forget the night in 1980 I stayed in the old Sheraton-Ritz; it was payment for a writing job. Dinner, $100, and a hotel room. Go figure. That night I sat in the window and studied downtown. The skyscrapers, the clock face on City Hall. Seventeen floors up. The Ritz was torn down several years ago, and every time I walk past that empty block I look up and imagine the spot where I sat, suspended above the ground, cradled by steel and glass. Now just another parcel of sky.

This is one of the reasons I love North Dakota. You can stand on the flat ground, face west, and know for sure this view will be here in a hundred years. A hundred thousand.

But there’s no good Indian food nearby, which spoils the moment.

Today I wrote a column. Read a New Republic review of the J.P. Morgan bio I was reading - a rather tiresome review, since the author had the bright idea to pair Morgan with Gates, and review the differences in managerial philosophy. Seems the reviewer thinks that Gates’ pangyrics to the wired future are a little naive. Really? No kidding.

I don’t think the web will change people; they are immutable. The web creates no new desires or human attributes. It simplifies and accelerates and complicates, but it doesn’t reform us. Doesn’t make homo internetus. I screen out the visionaries and the surly critics; they’re both wrong. Nowadays I have TV,telephones, movies, magazines, newspapers, catalogs, books, CDs. Each provides a distinctive service. Combine them all, and what do you get? The Internet! Which is made up of . . . TV, telephones, movies, magazines, newspapers, catalogs, books, CDs.

The wind has come up in the last few minutes; the night is sweeping the pieces off the board. Tomorrow we set them up again and play another round.