Tuesday, May 30, 2006

high culture, or what happens when I try to write a serious critical piece

In my last entry detailing a walk through the aisles of Liquidation World, I promised to follow up with a description of my subsequent trip to the MacKenzie Art Gallery to see the works of Dominique Blain. In other words, the high-culture portion of the bloggaberry pie. Can you believe my spellcheck flagged 'blogaberry'? Ridiculous. It also flagged 'spellcheck'. Actually, let's not call it a pie. Let's call it 'In High Art's Vaulted Halls: The Palinode Story'. No, let's not call it that either. Wait, let's.

EXT -- Day – MacKenzie Gallery Walkway

(Direct to camera)
Good afternoon! It's a beautiful day here at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, where we're going to take a little tour and talk about Dominique Blain's touring exhibition “Poetic Meets Political”. I'm here with my friend Mark Hamill.

I live in a condemned bungalow and drive a cab.

Yes you do, Mark. Yes you do. And if you'll forgive me for intruding on the sunny warmth of this day with some weighty matters, Mark, wouldn't you say that some institutions exist in tiny offices and locked basement rooms in the bland grey buildings of every city on earth, insinuating themselves like rhizomes into our lives even as they hide from view, becoming microscopic in size even as their scope is universal?

That's right, Palinode.

They're fungus, folks! But public institutions like museums, libraries, and art galleries take the form of monolithic slabs of building, modernist blocks and upended chunks of stone and concrete emerging from their foundations like chthonic gods raised to earth.

[CUT TO streeter interviews here, pedestrians laughing and saying “Chthonic gods?” etc.]

Like any building that grants State-sanctioned access to collective memory, it must impress by means of scale. That's why the building is set several hundred feet from the sidewalk, to force pedestrians to watch the building grow slowly larger as they approach, until it fills their entire field of vision. By these unsubtle means the architect hopes to impress upon you the notion that what is held within is sacred. Mark, do you pray at a gallery or a museum?

Ha ha, no I don't. I pray in the chapel at my local Sam's Club. [There is actually no chapel at Sam's Club. At least I don't think so.]

They sell those chapel-in-a-box kits there too. [No they don't. Or maybe they do.]

[CUT TO streeter interviews, pedestrians laughing and saying “Chapel in a box?” etc.]

Hey Mark, let's take a look inside the gallery, what say?

You're... on.

[Transition with needlessly sped-up footage of PALINODE and MARK HAMILL walking up to doors, crossing through atrium, waving to security guards and going up stairs to gallery space]

INT – DAY – MacKenzie Gallery

Okay, here we are in the MacKenzie Gallery, tall-ceilinged and friendly, where Dominique Blain's art is on display. What can you tell us about the artist, Mark?

Plenty, Palinode. Dominique Blain is an internationally renowned artist based in Montreal. Her work deals with the often controversial subject matter of 20th century social relations: injustice, racial and social inequality, fanaticism and oppression. It may come as a surprise, then, to see that her work is poetic in its beauty and poignancy. The viewer is awed by the elegance of her installations while being struck by the impact of the message being delivered. For example, what from a distance looks like a traditional handmade carpet is, in fact, made up of rows of life-size landmines.



What, you mean real land mines?

No, the motifs woven into the rug depict twenty-six different kinds of mines. The rug was actually woven by a cooperative in Pakistan, where these land mines represent a real danger.

You could have been a bit clearer on that.

I'm just repeating the sloppily written copy from the website.

Let's take a look at one of her most impressive and important works first, called “Traces,” which consists of – hey Mark, look at this.

What are we looking at, Palinode?

What we're looking at here is not “Traces” but "Balance," a small piece made out of an old-fashioned balance with some rusty chains at one end of the balance and a mass of fluffy white cotton on the other end.

Palinode, there's something weird going on with this piece.

There sure is, Mark. Somehow the airy white cotton is outweighing the pile of rusty chains. Why do you think that is, Mark?

Palinode, I have no idea.

Well, given the artist's focus on politics and injustice, I might surmise that "Balance" is attempting to tell us something about the privileging of the commodity over abstracter notions of human dignity and freedom. I think that this piece may well be commenting on the institution of slavery, familiar to all of us from nineteenth century America. Or perhaps it's commenting on our familiarity with these items?

This one explores the issue with nuance and subtlety.

Are you sure? Because it feels about as nuanced as a roundhouse kick to the jaw.

I like this piece.

Hi Janelle! Mark, this is my friend Janelle. I invited her here to discuss "Balance," because she likes it and I don't, and I feel this particular piece deserves explanation from a more sympathetic viewer.

Hi Janelle. I live in a condemned bungalow and drive a cab. My evenings are free and my house is paid off.

Palinode thinks this piece is a relatively lazy attempt at generating meaning in an otherwise engaging show. But I think that it exemplifies Blain's ability to take huge ideas and distill them into a series of objects, achieving something like poetry in the process. Her true skill emerges from her ability to exploit the tacit cultural relationships between the objects. Take a look at Untitled from 1999, a series of photographs set into the panels of a peaked frame, giving the appearance of a window in a Gothic church. Each pair of frames counterposes an image of a person engaged in religious worship and another engaged in scientific inquiry. The paired images suggest that the quests for empirical and spiritual knowledge are part of the same impulse, the same hunger for meaning. We understand this by drawing the connections in our mind between the images.

At the same time, an object on the floor with the same shape as the 'window' resembles an upside-down boat or broken-off piece of architecture. What this means is [At this point the boom mic cable got pulled and we lost audio. The cameraman forgot to plug in the shotgun mic, so the rest of Janelle's explanation was lost, which is a pity.]

It's kind of like a rebus puzzle in a way.

Yeah, I guess you could say that.

I guess you could say what?

That it's kind of like a rebus.

She said rebus!

That's right, Mark, she sure did. Rebus is today's 'Crazy Word'! And you know what that means!

What does it mean?

You get to knifefight Ernest Borgnine on the front lawn!

[OFF CAMERA VOICE bellows incoherently]

You hear that? It's Ernest Borgnine's challenge. Mark, you give Janelle the knife and tie it securely to her palm. Janelle, that's a double-bladed sucker, so watch yourself. And remember, Borgnine tends to feint with a jab and then sweep your legs out from under you with his foot, so don't forget to jump up and come down with a stabbing motion. Piece of cake.

I want to talk about the "Traces" piece.

We're running low on time here, Janelle, so you head out to the lawn and we'll catch up with you later.


Folks, this is an executive producer showing up for a surprise visit!

You need to shut this unit down right now and come back to the office. We sent you out to get some exterior shots of city landmarks for a commercial.

We shot that stuff already. Now We're creating an exciting new show about contemporary art, combining the feel of a hosted lifestyle show with a dash of A&E-style culture and that edgy in situ format so in demand with networks today.

All that without developmental approval, broadcaster agreement, a production schedule, a series breakdown, or even a single deal memo signed. And how did you hire Mark Hamill?

That's not the real Mark Hamill.

Yes I am.

Wow. I thought you were some homeless outpatient from the mental hospital.

I am also Mark Hamill.

At least let's get some footage of the knife fight. I worked hard to get the Event Permit from the city.

Who's fighting?

My friend Janelle is taking on Ernest Borgnine in a grudge match. She'll wipe the floor with him.

What? She can't kill Ernest Borgnine - he's already dead.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

high and low without the high

Since Tuesday was a day off, I took advantage of my time to visit Liquidation World, a deep-discount department store, and the MacKenzie Gallery, which is the official cultural storehouse for the province. In between I refilled my printer cartridge (which included a free explanation of the construction of an HP printer cartridge), got covered in worm threads (yech) and watched a crow drink from a puddle. If I learned one thing from my expedition, it was this: crows are really thirsty. They don't care if they have to get their water from a big pothole, they'll just wade in up to those funny knees of theirs and go for it. Their perseverance in the face of so many natural drinking disadvantages – beaks, no hands, no water tumblers – serve as a lesson to all us. At any rate, they show us that it's better to drink from a puddle in the road than spend too much time at Liquidation World.

There's a phrase that my friend Craig uses to describe the revulsion and prickly unease that places like Liquidation World or Dollarama engender. Translated directly from idiomatic Spanish, the phrase reads: It gives me thing. Liquidation World on a Tuesday morning may have plenty of goods for 75% off the sticker price, but it gives plenty of thing for free. When I walked in the place was nearly empty, with casually dressed staff appearing to outnumber customers. The few shoppers wandering the aisles looked confused at having ended up there. I watched them pick up floral-scented candles and cans of discontinued dog food, clearly hoping that one of these items would justify their wandering feet.

Liquidation World is best described as Canada's department store of failure. If your genius product bombs in the marketplace, if your warehouse catches fire, if your heart gives out or your cash flow simply drains away down the sink of bankruptcy, Liquidation World will swoop in and carry off the swag to its high cliffside nest network of retail outlets. Do you want your chipboard- with-maple-veneer armoir slightly water damaged? Urgently need a palette rack of brand-name candy that failed its test market run? Then you need Liquidation World. Or you need 24 boxes of 'Will o' the Crisp' for twenty bucks.

Their website claims that shoppers will enjoy the fun of discovering new and unexpected goods, but I can't say it was much fun to discover a bottle of 'low-calorie' ketchup that seemed to have a half inch layer of oil floating on its surface (to me this crosses the condiment-salad dressing barrier). Ditto for the jars of something called 'burrito starter,' which made me think of some kind of weird burrito engine. Take your burrito for a test drive! No money down!

A few minutes of searching turned up some items that I considered picking up as irritating novelty gifts. Most Dubious Toy Award definitely went to the nine-piece, life-size, all-gross KFC Play Meal, which comprised several pieces of plastic chicken in a plastic bucket with plastic fries and coleslaw (also plastic). There were no demo models available to allow me to handle the individual pieces and judge the exact amount of fun I could wring out of each, but taken collectively, it was hard to imagine children incorporating it into their imaginative lives. Or maybe there's a High Cholesterol Sally doll out there.

I also found a beard trimmer whose avowed purpose, according to the package, was 'bathroom art'. To help sell the concept there was a photo of a guy with a well-trimmed beard, a shock of Thomas Dolby hair and an expression that suggested a thyroid condition. Altogether the product was pitched squarely at the 1986 demographic, missing its target by a matter of mere decades.

I could see that Liquidation World probably had genuine deals every so often, worthwhile and useful products that had washed up on reduction's shores, but to find them would require a certain level of commitment, a willingness to go the distance, to patrol the stacks on a regular basis, train your eye to block out the crap, befriend the cashiers to get tips on a juicy estate sale or bankruptcy. Given the amount of florescent sixty-cycle thing I was getting from a twenty-minute visit, I knew I could never manage such a task. On the way out I picked up a package of Achoo designer tissues, the world's most self-explanatory paper product. I knew Schmutzie would get a kick out of them.

Next: a visit to high culture at the MacKenzie Gallery.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

for a song

I found it. I found it on Ebay. On Amazon, on Overstock dot com. I found it in a bin. A barrel. Somewhere in all the excess packaging. In plastic, in paper. In a bag. In a stall in the open-air market in Las Pinas. I found it etched on a shell, in the juncture of thorax and abdomen. Tarsal and metatarsal, I found it. Stretched across the sky. I found it on my Visa bill, in printer ink, in a toppling pine, a pair of contrails, a kerosene fire, a panicked clamber of steps in the stairwell. I found it at Best Buy for even less. At Wal-Mart. I found it surprisingly tart, but refreshing. I found it clutched between the teeth a department store floor manager forcibly deceased and dumped off the turnpike. I found it a bargain at nothing at all, at no money down, at no easy payments until 2007. I found the instructions difficult to read. I found a crack in the housing, a rider in the warranty, a clause in the small print and a handful of small screws that didn't go anywhere. I found it to be a sadomasochistic fantasy starring Demi Moore. A corruption of the text. I found a variorum edition. A lovingly handcrafted limited run that my family would treasure for generations. I found the first season of Firefly for twenty-five bucks? Man. I found it a bit tight in the seat, if you follow me. I found you smoking Number Sevens in the comfy chairs by the front window at Emily's, which I found charming. I found grey hairs replacing the blond at my temple and the red of my beard. I found another crease crazing the corner of my eye. I found a mole of uncanny symmetry blooming on my left shoulderblade. I found it by stretching my neck a bit. I discovered an unfamiliar sexual position in a copy of Cosmo at the optician's. I found it more pleasurable in theory than in practise. I found a line I liked in a book of Tennyson. I found it inspiring, but I couldn't say what it inspired. I found it waiting for me, patient and abiding, when I turned off the highway and followed the leaf-covered dirt road to the house where I dressed up as Gene Simmons for Halloween at the age of four. I found it disappointing.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

goodbye party

Last weekend, in their infinite kindness and corporate grace, the folks at my former company held a goodbye/ good luck/ don't go 'way mad party for me. It was held at the suburban McMansion of the Business Affairs Manager, who had multipurposed the affair into a benefit poker tournament for a benefit relay race for an umbrella charity group. Call it a two-tier trickle-down party with positive ramifications for everyone in the community. Except the neighbours.

When I showed up, ferried there by a cabdriver so good-natured that I suspected some kind of brain trauma lurking in his past, it became clear that the party was shaping up differently than I'd expected. The driveway and garage were packed with strangers, smoking and drinking from broad red plastic cups. They were all young, tanned, at least ten years younger than me,* the men with fitted shirts and faded jeans, the women with most of their breasts scooped out of their blouses and suspended for display. Having spent the last few years of my life downtown, I never ran into these kinds of people. I always wondered where they went for their cannibal sex orgies parties.

I waved at them in passing, shook a couple of hands on the way in, and found my former colleagues around the kitchen table playing Texas hold 'em. At least that's what they called it – I have absolutely no schooling in the variations of poker, knowing only that higher cards and lots of them are good. The host pointed at the fridge. “Aidan. Aidan. Go open the fridge and take a look”. I cracked the door open and witnessed what must be every frat boy's Friday night aspiration – a fridge crammed with cans of Coors Lite, silver cylinders at every available angle tucked around pizza boxes and bottles of white wine. “Go ahead there, buddy” called the host, “Take one. Have as many as you want”. I cracked one open and took a swig, wondering just how many I'd have to knock back to actually get drunk.

The drink situation seen to, I sat down at the table with the poker players. For food there was a mostly eaten shrimp ring, a few swiped-at daubs of cocktail sauce at the centre, shrimp tails littering the gutter along the rim. According to Jeff, the real food was supposed to arrive at 10:30 when Angela came. At least I knew that nothing was going to get between me and the precious alcohol locked away in these cans of light beer. I tipped most of the rest of the can down my throat.

I joined the poker game. My understanding of the rules had grown so vague that I kept on throwing out terms in hopes that one of them would fit the situation. I would throw in two chips and say “I bluff!” or hit the table twice, which may or may not have meant something. I held fast to two rules: keep saying poker-related words and never fold. This lost me all my chips repeatedly, but I figured that sooner or later pure chance would keep me in the game for two consecutive hands.

At first the table found my style endearing, but after twenty minutes or so it was clear that even the most even-tempered of them were losing patience. “What are the face-up cards in the middle of the table for?” I asked, rightly deducing a relationship between them and the pair I held carefully to my chest.

Anita, who was a lot drunker than I'd thought, lost it.

“Aidan!” she called out. “You're a loser! You're a loser at this game! I've never played it before and I'm way better than you!” Later that evening she announced to a roomful of coworkers and strangers alike that obese people made her angry, but for the moment my non-mad poker skills served as the object of her anger.

“Where did you learn poker?” asked the guy sitting next to me, who'd been giving me advice like 'Don't hold your cards out' and 'No, the white chips are yours, those ones are mine'.

“I played a few rounds in 1989,” I answered.

“Dude!” he scoffed. “How old were you in 1989?”

“Eighteen,” I said.

The guy's face seemed to turn colour slightly. If he hadn't expected to end up seated next to such a lousy poker player, he definitely didn't expect a certified grownup to be so bad at the game. I watched his eyes refocus, scan my face, trying to reassemble a picture of me that accorded with the data.

“I look young,” I said.

“Yeah. Yeah, you do,” he said.

“Am I supposed to show my cards now?” I asked.

I caught a brief creas of confusion across his brow. “No," he said. "You don't show your cards in poker”.

“You never count your money either,” I added. The guy nodded and went back to his cards, satisfied that I was a moron.

I took another beer and went in search of food. A brief search turned up some bottles of vodka, a stack of bibles and a weight set in the basement, and a room that contained nothing but a laser strobe and a stereo on the floor blasting rap music. “Bitch, please!” the stereo screamed. “You fuckin' with some real O.G.s!” True dat, I thought. But I couldn't help wonder why a song trying so hard to be hardcore sounded kind of bitchy and gay. Was Snoop Dogg trying to reclaim a saying from the argot of urban gay culture? Was it negative capability? Or blatant appropriation of voice? Then the shuffle function dipped further down the intellectual register and started up a Toby Keith song.

Every party has its preferred spot, a piece of carpet or linoleum or asphalt where all the smartest conversation, the loudest laughter, the best drugs, are located. The best parties have several spots (the worst have no spots, just a few people sitting on a couch playing video games and staring blankly at everyone who shows up). I found the first spot of the night at the foot of the driveway, right between a Honda Civic and a Z-28. My colleagues from the poker game had gathered to smoke and escape the rap-country blend being pumped through the house.

Anita was barefoot, flicking her skirt back and forth and sloshing a martini around. Her body seemed consumed by a jittery greenish energy that only increased as she dragged on her cigarette and threw more vodka down her throat. I gathered from her conversation with Chad that she had just finished a strict exclusion diet and discovered, to her great delight, that it was wheat gluten, not alcohol, that had been plaguing her digestive and nervous systems for years. If ever there were reason to go and get absolutely hammered, this would be it.

As Anita danced back and forth, my former assistant director – let's call him Mike – was telling me what I thought was an elaborate joke.

“Okay, Aidan. I started dating this girl a few weeks ago. Last weekend, we go to this party but I'm getting over the flu”. Mike was always somewhere between catching and recovering from the flu. “I don't feel so good so I tell her I have to leave. She gets mad at me because she thinks I'm ditching her. Which couldn't be further from the truth. So I go home and she sleeps with two of my best friends”.

He took a drag on his cigarette. I waited for the punchline. “And?” I said.

Mike gave me a blank look.

“That night?” said Chad.

Mike nodded. “That very night”.

“What a slut,” said Chad

“She doesn't know I know,” said Mike.

“What, you're serious?” I asked. “I thought you were making a joke”.

Mike shook his head and swigged his beer.

“She slept with Rob right after I left, and then they went to Charlie's and she had sex with Charlie later that night. That's how she got revenge on me for ditching her”.

Which couldn't be further from the truth, I thought. “How's it revenge if you're not supposed to know about it?”

Mike shrugged. “I don't know. Now she's really mad because I haven't spoken to her since. She thinks I'm just avoiding her. She doesn't know I'm actually disgusted with her”.

A car pulled up and disgorged a group of teenage girls with improbable heels and glitter spangling their faces and chests. Mike recognized one of them and waved her over. As Mike talked with a couple of sparkly girls, Chad wandered over to me and laid his hand on my shoulder.

“Aidan, Aidan, Aidan,” he said. “I'm going to miss you”. Then he flipped open his cellphone and turned the screen to my face. “Take a look at what I was doing a few days ago”.

I looked at the little screen. In a bathtub two girls covered in suds were soaping each other and laughing. Chad flipped through several more photos of the girls grabbing at different parts of each other's bodies and throwing handfuls of suds at each other.

“That's my girlfriend,” Chad announced. I resisted the urge to ask which one he was referring to.

He flipped the phone shut and dropped it back into his shirt pocket. “The rest aren't suitable for public viewing,” he said, and wandered off to find more beer. I was missing the room with the stereo.

Mike leaned towards me. “I used to date that girl,” he intoned. “She's filthy. Really”.

I realized then that I was fucking with some real O.G.'s.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

a morning chat between palinode and oskar

Oskar: Hey. Hey there.

Palinode: What's up, Oskar?

Oskar: I want something. I really want something.

Palinode: What do you want?

Oskar: I'm not sure. It's over here somewhere. That thing I want.

Palinode: You keep looking then.

Oskar: HEY!

Palinode: Shut up.


Palinode: Shut up.


Palinode: (gets up and walks into the kitchen) I SAID SHUT UP.

Oskar: Hey, is that food in my bowl? Because I can't smell it.

Palinode: I gave you that food twenty minutes ago. You were there. You ate some.

Oskar: I can't smell it. I have a sinus problem, you know.

Palinode: I know.

Oskar: It's a bit insensitive of you to get angry when you know I can't smell my food.

Palinode: Shut up.

Oskar: So I'm going to make like I'm burying it.

Palinode: That has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever seen. You get that, right?

Oskar: Can you help me find a toy?

Palinode: No.

Oskar: Can you help me find a toy?

Palinode: You've lost all your toys. All your balls, all your mice.


Palinode: Shut up.


Palinode: Okay. Fuck. (looks) That's one of the casters. There's nothing under there.

Oskar: AARRRRGHHH! (takes off running, knocks over a pile of books, slams into the wall, hides behind the television)

Palinode: Okay. I'm going to finish my production resume.

Oskar: You're reading Boing Boing.

Palinode: I've moved on to Digg, actually.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Thirteen important things to take away from Mission Implausible 3

1. Why walk to your destination when you can run, jump, swing, rappel, kick seven guys in the head and unravel a complex scheme to maintain global American supremacy to get there?

2. The success of The Matrix has really opened up that running-through-city-streets-getting-directions-on-a-cell-phone- from-a-tech-geek genre. In fact, watching MI3 has made plain to me that The Matrix pretty much legitimized the use of mobile phones as dramatic devices. Thanks to the Wachowskis, it is now permissible to extend a noisy, confusing action scene by having characters move between areas of signal coverage. Thanks for enhancing my movie going experience there.

3. It is possible to base an entire two-hour movie on the sight of Tom Cruise running, his face frozen in a rictus of athletic effort, flecks of spittle flying from his clenched grin. It may not be possible to watch that movie, but you can get it made.

4. In the spirit of promoting adventure tourism in China, Shanghai city laws now permit you to hang out the door of your vehicle and shoot out the tires of other vehicles. They also allow basejumping in the downtown core.

5. When you're planting hidden explosives, make sure to set them out in plain sight with a glowing red LED indicator. Red means "gonna explode".

6. Quick MI3 guide to covert rescue missions: a) assemble a crack team and fly them halfway around the world to an abandoned factory; b) infiltrate the factory, avoid the armed guards and eventually place yourself within five feet of the hostage you've come to rescue; c) shoot all the windows out. That's right, just shoot at everything and blow that sumbitch factory right up. Then, while every single faceless mercenary in the building wakes up and grabs his gun, haul the hostage out. It'll work. Just keep shooting.

7. You can meet, fall in love, get engaged and move in with someone, all without introducing the love of your life to any of your friends or family, or even giving them a single scrap of information about your fiance. They won't think it's weird.

8. If your wife gets kidnapped and tortured and tied to a chair in a tearoom in Shanghai, she'll forgive you for pretending to be a department of transportation employee, but only if you rescue her and then immediately make her electrocute you to save your life. There's a lot of backstory here, but the principle holds true.

9. The best way to learn how to use a gun is to have Tom Cruise scream at you.

10. Personal conversations are best conducted on rooftops.

11. Dangerous rogue agents should be gagged, restrained on a hospital cart and placed in a featureless round room just long enough to be told off. You can't move them to a cell to tell them off, you have to do it in the featureless round room. It's the rules.

12. It's possible to hang around in a depressurized airplane cabin and not, you know, die.

13. I'm guessing that when Cruise pitched this movie to Paramount, he just ran laps around the boardroom for twenty minutes at top speed, gasping out "TOM CRUISE! TOM CRUISE! ALWAYS IN MOTION! HIGH-GROSSING!" until the execs relented, terrified that Cruise was about to rap while running.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

horrific tales of spousal abuse #22

Afternoon in the PaliSchmutz household. Schmutzie in the bathtub, Palinode a' wandering by.

Schmutzie: Hey you?

Palinode: Yes?

Schmutzie: I don't know if you wanted to do anything right now -

Palinode: Uh-huh.

Schmutzie: - but I was thinking of cutting my hair and taking a bit of time before we went out or did anything else.

Palinode: Mmm. (deep breath, exhales slowly) Okay. That's fine with me - if you don't mind dealing with a punch to the gut.

Schmutzie: I can deal with a punch to the gut.

Palinode: Okay then. (raises fist, punches self in the stomach) OWW! AH! GOD! THE PAIN! (stumbles around the bathroom some) LORD, MAKE IT STOP! SWEET JESUS! (collapses against the wall)

Schmutzie: I think I dealt with that pretty well.

Palinode: Yes, you acquitted yourself handsomely.

Schmutzie: How'd the punch go for you?

Palinode: Hurts a bit. I think the cat witnessed the event.

Schmutzie: Just perpetuating the cycle.