Warning! Spoiler alert!

Fahrenheit 9/11 opened to a crowded theater this morning at the Century mall. I got a seat up in the back row. Up the steps came an elderly man and his two daughters; they sat in my row and the man sat next to me. He said he had to apologize in advance because he had such a bad back that he might have to stand up in the middle of the movie, just to relieve the pain. I said I was sorry to hear that, but that he should feel free to stand up. Personally, as long as he didn't have Serial Flatulence Syndrome, I wouldn't be bothered. The poor guy did have to use an ice pack on his back later. We talked for another minute about Michael Moore, and then the previews and movie started.

Of course, the White House will vigorously deny what the film depicts, but it's right there on the screen: Paul Wolfowitz sucking on his comb before running it through his hair in preparation for a TV interview outdoors.

Later, music accompanies the scenes of the president on the aircraft carrier as he declares the end of major combat in Iraq:
Look at what's happened to me,
I can't believe it myself.
Suddenly I'm up on top of the world,
It should've been somebody else.

Believe it or not,
I'm walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me.

After the movie, people left the theater, streaming past a long line of people waiting for the next show. As I descended the stairs and ramps of the Century mall, way behind me I heard a man following, yelling something about how "We've won the war, we've already won the war." I couldn't hear the rest of what he was bellowing; the acoustics were bad.

Then again, I shouldn't assume the guy was leaving the theater, just because he was in the mall. He might have just left the Aveda bath shop, where he won the war for personal beauty, wellness, and the environment by using Aveda pure flower and plant essences and plant-based products.

Tuxedos and cufflinks

A billboard says Tony Bennett is scheduled to appear at a local casino September 3. I thought he was dead. If he's booked to appear at that casino, he must be alive. Is Mel Torme still alive? No, he's dead. Oh, that was tragic; he looked so full of life at the time. He fell out of a tall building. No wait, that was a Mountain Dew commercial and he was wearing a parachute.

I saw you talkin' with

Christopher Walken, as profiled by Stephen Rodrick in a recent New York Times Magazine:
Walken's get-out-of-jail free card is his voice. As much as he marches to the beat of his own drum machine, Walken speaks like a man keeping time to a metronome with a wicked sense of humor. The fickle cadence of Walkenese is his calling card. "I get that from my days as a dancer," Walken says. "I'm still counting off dance steps as I cross a room. Two-two four. Three-three four. I'm doing that when I talk."

His bizarro word rhythm and gleeful disregard for punctuation makes even his most banal utterances sound dramatic. At the grocery store, he stared at a plump tomato and then put it back. "I DON'T. Buy the tomatoes with. The stems. On them. They don't. Degrade. They go. Down the sink. And into the WATER. Then. They get lodged in the throats of little. OTTERS."

Dollars for reading

From a recent news item:
Publisher Lures UK Men Back to Books with Sexy Model

LONDON (Reuters) - In a bid to lure men in Britain away from watching TV soccer games and into book shops, publisher Penguin Books will send out a sexy model to offer 1,000-pound ($1,800) prizes to males spotted reading a selected title.

The publicity ploy, launched Monday, aims to boost sales among men, who on average buy fewer books than women.

Penguin's so-called Good Booking Girl will canvass the streets this month for men older than 16 years reading versions of Nick Hornby's "31 Songs" that bear a special cover sticker.

That is just like the Brits, to let people win money for reading a book. That is so... elitist. Here in the United States we don't reserve cash prizes only for people with skills, like reading. We give prizes to people who can eat a bucket of crawly worms with maple syrup. And if you don't know anything about that then you don't know the taste of a little thing called freedom.

But freedom can also taste like apple pie, because... we're free to eat whatever, and read whatever, or not, and like the president told Brit Hume on Fox TV last year, he doesn't hardly read anything!

And don't go thinking that Brit Hume got his name because his parents wished he had been a British baby. That's not true. The Humes named their baby Brit Hume because "Brit Hume" is an anagram for "I'm the URB." And what does "URB" mean? It's the code for the airport in Urubupunga, Sao Paulo, Brazil. So stop calling us Americans isolationist! When a young American couple can name their American baby after an anagram that signifies that their child is a South American airport, it just symbolizes the philosophy of inclusion that we radiate like a grapefruit squirting juice.

It is with deep regret

George Tenet is quitting his job as CIA director in order to spend more time with his family, he says. This has to change; we need a new euphemism for when people resign due to unpopularity or mistakes.

"I'm stepping down so I can spend more time with my ____."
a. "ostrich farm."
b. "parents at the casino."
c. "mistress."

On message

O.J. Simpson and his attorney, Yale Galanter, consented to spend some time with journalist Pat Jordan, who captured the experience in his 2001 article, "The Outcast." Three excerpts:
The waitress brought our food and we began eating. Simpson ate hunched over, his face low to the plate, looking up expectantly from time to time.

"I didn't picture my life like this," he told me. "I thought I'd retire at fifty with enough money, on my own terms. It's hard to retire this way. But I did it for my kids."

"O.J. is a devoted single parent," Galanter said.
A little later:
Simpson sat down and said, "I never got hugs before. Now the public shows me so much love. Women are my biggest defenders. It's that bad-boy syndrome. Now girls chase me. But if a girl wants to be with me I tell them they have to be number three, behind my kids."

"Being a father comes first with O.J.," Galanter said.
Later, in the car:
It was late afternoon, and Simpson was driving again.

"For the last few years, I wasn't really looking for work," he said. "I got an offer to be a TV spokesman in Europe, an Inside Edition-type thing, but I'd have to be there eight days a month, and I can't leave my kids."

"O.J. is a wonderful father," Galanter said from the backseat.
-- From Best American Crime Writing (edition published 2002).


"We have no king but Jesus
And I am blessed to bring you that news
We have no king but Jesus
I can't explain why we've got Jews"

-- What Attorney General John Ashcroft might write if he were in a poetic mood, according to Calvin Trillin's new book, Obliviously On He Sails, a collection of rhymes about the Bush administration. The single sentence "We have no king but Jesus" is from Ashcroft's 1999 address to Bob Jones University in South Carolina. Trillin spoke to a full auditorium in the downtown library Wednesday night.

Book fair

Dave Eggers was one of the authors speaking at the Printers Row Book Fair this past weekend. The organizers booked him into a room too small for his popularity; every available part of the room was occupied by people sitting in chairs, sitting on the floor, or standing along the sides and back. The densely packed crowd actually hushed when Dave entered the room with representatives of the book fair.

The schedule permitted only one hour for Dave because there would be a new speaker there next hour. At the start a professor took ten full minutes to introduce Dave, in case there were any people there who didn't know why they were standing in a hot, airless, overcrowded room.

Modest and unpretentious, Mr. Eggers finally got to read some very funny pieces from upcoming works he had written under a pen name or edited. His book on dispelling "all the myths about giraffes" is designed to be planted in a child's library, and reveals that giraffes are actually made out of papier-mâché.

Writer/cartoonist Jules Feiffer also spoke at the fair in a larger auditorium. Among many things, he recalled the time around 1970 when he had written the screenplay for Carnal Knowledge and they were considering Jack Nicholson for a lead role. At the time, Feiffer thought that Nicholson was just some new actor doing a bad imitation of Henry Fonda's voice.

A hole of our own

Block 37 in Chicago is an undeveloped area in the middle of downtown. There's a book about it and the blurb on the back cover says:
Before there was a Ground Zero in New York City, Block 37 was a giant hole in the heart of a great American city. In 1990, Chicago's Block 37 (as a key part of a 27 acre urban renewal project) was razed to the ground. After the expenditure of nearly $250 million of public and private capital, nothing has been built on this once vital and densely-occupied city block. This stubborn vacancy at the center of Chicago's historic downtown eerily presaged the post 9/11 wasteland in Lower Manhattan.

We are victims too, New York! Here in Chicago! Look over here! We were eerily presaging stuff years ago! When you need things to be presaged in an eerie fashion, we in Chicago are your go-to guys. It's like 9/11, isn't it? Yet, somehow we suffer in relative silence. Here's the book.