Screen gem.

A story in Sunday’s NYT makes the case for George Clooney, movie star AND actor. I agree 100 percent. As a withered crone, of course my hubba-hubba interest in him is, in a word, gross, so I lay that aside and concentrate, like the writer of this piece does, on how he does it. We saw “Up in the Air” over the weekend, and there were several points where I noticed what isn’t appealing about his physicality — he’s a little too thin, and has the big Hollywood head first pointed out by LAMary some time back. (As an Angeleno who has seen many in the flesh, she called actors “the lollipop people.”) There was an angle here and there where you could see his neck is getting crepey, although he retains the Clooney sparkle and will until he dies.

What I like about him is his (seeming) professional pluck, uncommon in a movie star capable of phoning it in until retirement. He comes across as not only a nice movie-star guy, but one who really is all about the work. He takes chances, stretches himself, is unafraid of both failure and unflattering camera angles that show his softening neck. He has the self-effacement and good sense not to whine about how hard it is to be him, at least in public. I know a few people who’ve had personal encounters with him and say he’s pretty much as advertised, and if it really is all bullshit and he’s just very good at snowing fangirls like me, then, well-snowed, sir.

Terrence Rafferty gets it right at the very beginning:

He’s the kind of actor who could float along forever on his genial presence alone, coast on charm. But he doesn’t. (Or doesn’t always.) That’s the mystery.

That is, indeed, the mystery. It’s hard to imagine another actor carrying “Up in the Air” as capably as he does, even when you look closely and see where he gets help. He plays a son of a bitch who happily fires people for a living, but gains our sympathy through the early introduction of an even bigger monster, a young underling who wants to fire people for a living via teleconference. He makes a pitch for the comparable dignity of doing such ugly work in person, and you almost forget that he’s the guy who makes his living through outsourced terminations in the first place. It’s the Don Corleone trick; he’s happy to make his living from violence, gambling, prostitution and protection, but not from drugs. He’s the best bad guy in the room.

I try not to read too much about movies I intend to see in theaters, but it was hard to miss the chatter about “Up in the Air,” particularly as it was partially shot here and touches the raw wound of job loss. I read beforehand about how Jason Reitman, the writer and director, had to make a tonal shift in his script as the story was, as we say in journalism, overtaken by events. But whatever he had to rewrite or rethink, he did it exceptionally well. It’s so sure-footed. I think one reason I liked this movie so much is, we don’t see enough stories onscreen about people’s work lives (unless they’re doctors or lawyers or police, that is). We certainly don’t see many about people who work in white-collar office jobs, and I found myself moved by shots that weren’t even particularly fussed over — the pans of offices already half-empty, the extra chairs pushed into a vacant cubicle, the phones piled up on the floor, the way everyone sees Clooney walk in and immediately cower in fear. I’ve been there; my office looked like that when I left, and one of the exciting new ad hoc committees for 2005 was supposed to be the rearrangement and removal of furniture so it didn’t look so tumbleweedy.

I also like Rafferty’s career assessment of Clooney, as he called out my two favorite performances — “Out of Sight” and “Michael Clayton,” and the best part of the latter film. It’s the final, two-minute shot of the Cloonester in the back of a cab:

He flags a taxi, slumps into the back seat and tells the cabbie to drive, and it’s only then that you understand how eloquent Mr. Clooney’s body language has been throughout the preceding two hours — how tensely he’s been holding himself, how warily he’s been sizing up his dangerous world. As he sits in the cab, just riding, the camera stays on him for two full minutes. He does nothing, apparently. His expression hardly changes. But you can feel the weight of what he’s been through in his blankness, his emptied-out eyes. You can’t stop looking at him. It’s a great, daring piece of acting. Only a movie star could get away with it.

(I disagree with that last sentence, by the way. Bob Hoskins, “The Long Good Friday,” end of discussion.)

OK, then. Movie Monday it is, I guess. We also caught an oldie I’d never seen before, “Bound,” on cable Friday night. More on that when I recover from how good it was.

Bloggage? Sure:

The Harry Reid story is leading the weekend news cycle as “Game Change,” the new book about the 2008 presidential campaign, gets circulating. But don’t miss this excerpt in New York magazine, about the meltdown of another handsome man, John Edwards, who fell for the oldest trap in the world.

Speaking of Reid, who still says “Negro,” anyway? Doesn’t he know the code word yet? “Articulate?”

This NYT Styles story was so stupid it made my brain hurt. Thank God for Terrence Rafferty.

I’m late getting to the big New Yorker profile of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and, it would seem, the model for Steve Martin’s character in “Baby Mama.” Note well:

His belief in the power of the individual is such that blame falls on individuals, too. In his view, it tends to be the fault of the unhealthy or fat person that he or she is unhealthy or fat. People just need to eat better. He told me, “If I could, I would wave a magic wand so that Americans ate better, because the diseases that are killing us—heart disease, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s—these diseases have a high correlation with diet. And that is something that most people do not understand.”

It matters less to him that our food system, for a dozen reasons, as Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and many others have chronicled, has been rigged to deliver unhealthy food at artificially low cost to a misguided public. People have the power and the means to choose rice and beans over Big Macs, and when they fail to do so they bring ruin on themselves, and on everyone else. In his Wall Street Journal column, Mackey wrote of “the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health. Unfortunately, many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight, and one-third are obese.” Inarguable as this assertion may be, it struck a discordant note. People who may look to Whole Foods to agitate for changes in the food system, or who have been bankrupted by medical costs despite eating right, might wonder if it was quite the moment to be preaching personal responsibility.

Worth your time.

And another week begins. At least it was a pretty weekend. Enjoy it.

Posted at 1:24 am in Current events, Movies |

78 responses to “Screen gem.”

  1. Hattie said on January 11, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Don’t forget those eyes.

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  2. beb said on January 11, 2010 at 8:06 am

    I have no idea where or when Harry Reid made those obversations about Obama but they sound like something being said in a very private, very much off-the-record conversation and their publication now violations some previously agreed upon agreement.

    And as has been pointed out, saying that Obama is an electable black man because he’s not very “Black” is different from sayng that the world would have been a better a place if a Hard Core Racist had become President, which is what Trent Lott was saying.

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  3. brian stouder said on January 11, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Beb- exactly so. And as for Republicans, I seem to recall that the “YOU LIE” guy offered a limp apology for his ejaculation, which was gracefully accepted. So there’s that

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  4. coozledad said on January 11, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Mackey acts as though his temporary success is the product of forethought and hard work, instead of a consumer backlash against the uniformity of merchandise available at large chain grocery outlets. The infrastructure had already developed from the co-op model of the 40’s through the hairy pastoral of the seventies. It just fell in the douchebag’s lap, and he wants to play some sort of Ayn Rand Jesus. There were a lot more talented people from smaller operations whose experience built Whole Foods. The only thing that really bears Mackey’s imprimatura is the shitty arrogance of the place. It’s always crammed with old hippies who finally decided to invest in the stock market and a pair of tweezers, or libertarian assholes who’ve decided their diet should reflect their boundless sense of self worth. I used to see George Will manque Peter Fever at the Whole Foods in Durham a lot, probably nursing his British exile posture with a can of mashed peas and a jar of Marmite. He must have been happy as a pig in shit when Bush brought him up to DC, where the right-leaning environment makes it trendier to slop like a blue collar hog.

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  5. ROgirl said on January 11, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Did Edwards really fall into a trap, or is the story conveniently silent on his past history? Was this really the first time he strayed? If Elizabeth is as unhinged as she was portrayed it’s hard to believe there weren’t moments of such behavior before.

    Yes, he lied and self-destructed, but the former aides who spilled the beans have their own agenda to promote (he changed, we couldn’t save him from the clutches of a determined bimbo).

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  6. Linda said on January 11, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Thanks, Nancy, for making me want to kick Mackey in the teeth even more now than I wanted to before. He lives in Affluentland, where upper middle and wealthy Americans cannot even imagine why people don’t buy healthy food–like, for instance, because they don’t have a car and live 15 miles away from a supermarket, and therefore get their food from gas stations and party stores. If he wants to put his money where his big mouth is, he could put a lower-cost version of Whole Foods in the ghettoes where people could access it. But I’m not holding my breath and standing on one foot waiting for that to happen. Mr. Capitalism might want to know that nonprofit groups and the state of Michigan are, in fact, trying to fill that void in the central city of Detroit by bringing in fresh fruits and veggies to buy. Suck it, Mr. Whole Foods.

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  7. Dorothy said on January 11, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I liked “Up in the Air” very much but I don’t really see it as the Best Picture winner at the Oscars. I’m woefully behind on seeing movies this year, but if this is considered a contender, it’s my assertion that the competition must be pretty limp. You’re dead-on about “Michael Clayton” – that movie was powerful and George’s performance was the main reason why.

    I’ve read some positive articles about Jeff Bridges’ new movie “Crazy Heart.” The plot sounds very similar to “Tender Mercies” to me, which is one of my top ten favorite movies.

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  8. moe99 said on January 11, 2010 at 10:04 am

    George Clooney is our modern day Cary Grant. Michael Clayton v. N by NW. Any other comparisons folks might have?
    Tom Hanks a modern Jimmy Stewart?

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  9. John said on January 11, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Marlon Brando were much more versatile than present day actors, mainly because of the sheer volume of films produced during their careers.

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  10. brian stouder said on January 11, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Moe – off the top of my head:

    James Mason – Morgan Freeman (god-like gravitas)

    Errol Flynn – Tom Cruise (dashing good looks and little else)

    Dean Martin – Jon Favrea (in-crowd credentials, occasionally surprising displays of talent)

    edit: John, I don’t know about versatility; the volume of films in the old days allowed an actor to survive a stinker or two, but lots of them played the same role over and over again – “type-casting” was maybe a sort of job security, if they needed your “type”

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  11. coozledad said on January 11, 2010 at 11:02 am

    It’s probably because I’ve encountered a few neurotic empaths in my day, but I always had a thing for Sandy Dennis. She kicked every one of her films up a few notches.

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  12. MarkH said on January 11, 2010 at 11:08 am

    You mean Sandy Dennis, don’t you, Cooz? Sandy Denny was Fairport Convention. But I agree.

    beb, Brian, why are you letting Reid off the hook?

    EDIT – Ha! Caught your change, Cooz!

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  13. basset said on January 11, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Sandy Denny made movies? I thought she just sang.

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  14. coozledad said on January 11, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I have the Battle of Evermore on the brain, obvs.

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  15. adrianne said on January 11, 2010 at 11:13 am

    George Clooney is a genuinely nice guy off the set. He was in the Hudson Valley to film some scenes for “Michael Clayton” and two reporters found out where he was staying, lurked in the hotel bar and ended up talking to him for a good hour about movies, journalism, politics, etc. Also, he actually participated in karaoke night at said bar.

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  16. Julie Robinson said on January 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Clooney seems to have an effortless charm and self-ease. As Nance said, if it’s not real, he IS a good actor. Anna Kendricks was on a talk show gushing about him and reported that he doesn’t wear any makeup while filming. For me, it’s those eyelashes, but I remain true to Hugh Jackman. And that’s as serious as I’m getting today.

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  17. Peter said on January 11, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Oh heck, Cooz, who knows where the time goes!

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  18. Jeff Borden said on January 11, 2010 at 11:43 am

    The reason we enjoyed “Up in the Air” this weekend was that it was an adult film. I enjoy different film genres as much as the next person and some of my guilty pleasures would have cineastes running for the bathroom, but it’s not always easy to find something at the multiplex that has some meat on its bones, some ideas in its DNA. We can debate some of the plot twists of the Clooney film –Eric Zorn is particularly pungent in calling bullshit on one plot turn– but I admired the movie for avoiding a “happily ever after” ending that seemed to be telegraphed earlier on.

    I’m inclined to agree with Dorothy that “Michael Clayton” is a somewhat better film, but we both thoroughly enjoyed “Up in the Air” and will recommend it to others. It’s Clooney’s movie all the way but it’s beautifully cast with real actors who kick ass especially Vera Farmiga, who we’d never seen before. She has a great, comfortable sexuality about her that reminded us of Sally Kellerman a few decades ago.

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  19. coozledad said on January 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Peter: Classic senior moment. I was just looking at the Wikipedia entry for Sandy Dennis right before I posted that. I already had her confused with Ellen Burstyn, thinking she’d played the woman who shears her hair off in “the King of Marvin Gardens”.
    There’s some Kate Bush song that’s basically a catalog of dead British rockers, and she refers to Sandy Denny, which I always hear as Sandy Dennis. I think there must be a big hunk of marijuana tar straddling that neural pathway.

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  20. Deborah said on January 11, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    We tried to see “Avatar” this weekend at the Imax theater on Navy Pier, but tickets were unavailable, solidly sold out. I will probably end up seeing “Up in the Air” on DVD when it comes out. Clooney certainly is dashing, he definitely has that easy grace that Cary Grant had. Love the “lollipop people” description of hollywood actors. Many of the leading men I’ve seen in person are tiny.

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  21. brian stouder said on January 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Sally Keller­man

    The original Hotlips Houlihan; Marvelous!

    Only Isabella Rosalini outranks her (kinkiness aside) in Blue Velvet

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  22. Gena said on January 11, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Loved George, but agree with Zorn. The reveal revealed her to be a sociopath, which was beside the point. Except maybe that 5000 kicks in the gut deserved another.

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  23. A. Riley said on January 11, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I’m with Hattie. Those big dark Clooney eyes. Mmm. (I wonder if he’s nearsighted.)

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  24. jcburns said on January 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Cooz: I read your evisceration of the people who cram Whole Foods and I was, as I often am, trying to figure out where I fit into that stereotype, and, since you were in the damn store observing, where you do as well. My first WF experience was at their first store in Austin, and I was doing design work in town and was pleased that I could grab some prepared food that wasn’t so crappily prepared in the brief moments I had between work and work. Also, it was right next door to a really cool bookstore. So when they (finally) came to Atlanta, I was hugely excited and dragged Sammy to see and we unapologetically go there to buy meat, fish, poultry—protein of a quality that just isn’t findable elsewhere in town. It also remains a great working-on-the-road food oasis…I’ve been to the one in Durham, as well as lower Manhattan, Portland, Seattle, Ann Arbor, LA.
    All that said, John Mackey and his attitude on health care drives me nuts and I’d probably trip him into the slush out in front of his store if I met him in person. But me, I don’t want to be the old hippie who has finally decided to invest in the stock market, and I’m sure not a libertarian.

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  25. Rana said on January 11, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    I admired the movie for avoid­ing a “hap­pily ever after” end­ing that seemed to be telegraphed ear­lier on.

    Yes. What I very much appreciated about “Up in the Air” was the way it deftly avoided the clichéd rom-com ending; indeed, it made all such movies look like the contrived fluff they are.

    I was rather bemused by the “caveman” article when I read it yesterday (dead tree version, no less). Because of my interest in these shoes I’ve been encountering a lot of the natural exercise-barefooting crowd, and there is substantial overlap with the paleo folks. I think the best analysis of the phenomenon is in this article about the effects of shoes on feet (scroll down to the section on “Paleo-nostalgia and lifestyle advice”); the author rather deftly points out that the paleo crowd (and others like them) are picking and choosing what they want to believe from a range of possible options; there isn’t one “authentic” human past but many.

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  26. Jeff Borden said on January 11, 2010 at 1:14 pm


    She who must not be named just signed on as a contributor to Fox News for an undisclosed salary. I guess a network already home to such towering intellects as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and the yo-yo’s of “Fox and Friends” needed another big name intellectual.

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  27. coozledad said on January 11, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Jeff Borden:My wife and I went to the whole foods for a while after the local independent food coop went belly up. Not content to sell tofu cuties, couscous and essential oils, they opted for a kind of black pajamas die-in community activism which was quaint, but straying a bit from the whole Laurel’s Kitchen ethos. At first, it had been run by some guys who actually knew how to manage a store, who ultimately packed off for the Chapel-Hill Carrboro area and built a thriving community market. It was subsequently manned by Birkenstock trustafarians and a board that reminded me of the people you’d see at a state fair watching a food-slicer demonstration. Pluckees. In addition to hiring an unstable accountant, they got plucked by some guy to the tune of a couple of thousand dollars. To see this guy, and think he was entrusted with money, is to invite a painful headache. To his credit, he opted for the day-glo green pajama ensemble as opposed to the black- a 350 lb. sprite of a man who often wore children’s sunglasses.
    Another trustafarian came to the rescue briefly. This was a guy who drove an old bronco stacked with old newspapers to the top of the windows except for the driver’s seat. He had a lot of theories regarding the failure of the co-op, most of them rooted in a masonic conspiracy.
    The last gasp of the co-op was ruled by an authoritarian couple who struggled to project a saintly, peaceful aura, but were obviously the second incarnation of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. They pretty much finished stripping it to the walls.
    The Whole Foods in Durham was built on the remains of the old Wellspring Grocery, formerly managed, at least in part, by Lex Alexander (my wife thinks he may have just managed the wine store). He later helped found Whole Foods.
    When I worked in Durham, I would stop at the Broad Street Cafe (the local Whole Foods restaurant) and get cheese grits and coffee for breakfast. It was also the only place that carried a specific soy chicken substitute we’d grown used to purchasing from the Durham co-op, or as it used to be called, the PIFC (People’s Intergalactic Food Conspiracy). I guess I’d have been one of the freshly tweezed gen X’rs.
    Now we order a lot of our food from the same supplier as Whole Foods (UNFI). We basically run a buying club.

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  28. Deborah said on January 11, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I too got caught up on my New Yorker reading this weekend and finally read that article about the Whole Foods founder. I was surprised how right wing he seems and vowed that I need to find an alternative. We shop at Whole Foods for produce and meat only, everything else we mostly get at Trader Joe’s. I don’t know of any alternatives except in the summer there are the green markets for buying produce (I guess you can buy meat there too, but I haven’t done that yet). What does one do in the winter? Any suggestions? The article was an interesting read, I understand you have to be practical about some things but still…

    I just read the linked article about Edwards, wow, nothing else to say but wow what a sad state of affairs. I’ve been sort of obsessed with reading about that mess, don’t know why.

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  29. Dexter said on January 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    It is still acceptable to say “Negro Leagues” when referring to a historical baseball era, and it is still in favor to refer to “Negro spirituals” when talking about the history of the USA, and African Americans use the term “Negro” disparagingly against their friends when the friend says or does something outlandish.
    I assume Reid meant no harm by this off-the-cuff remark, and to me it’s obvious this is the vernacular he is stuck in. He grew up dirt-poor in Nevada in a era when “Negro” was the proper and polite word to use.
    What if he would have said “…yeah, Obama talks “white” , but you ever hear him spouting that n*****-jive s*** on the basketball court? Sheee-itt!” Then it would be time to step down. As it is, this dies quickly. I heard Reverend Al weighting in on the issue, and he was tounge-tied, and said almost nothing about it , pro or con. So it’s dead, and let’s bury it.
    I saw nance’s Facebook page regarding “Bound”, and I agree, it was absolutely gripping and had me glued into my chair straight through. I had not seen it either.

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  30. Little Bird said on January 11, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I have to say, I like the products (most of them anyway) offered at Whole Foods. I trust their meat department more than the meat departments at other stores. I prefer their selection of cheeses as well. But, once upon a time, I worked at a Whole Foods. And let me tell you, working at one of their stores is like being a contestant on “Survivor”. Every department is a “team” and your fellow “team members” can vote you off the island if they decide they don’t like you. That has to be the only job I’ve ever lost because (in part) I DIDN’T smoke pot! I was literally the only member of my “team” that didn’t. Even both “team leaders” did. During their lunch breaks.
    I took a $3 an hour pay cut to leave the job I had to go work for Whole Foods. I thought they would treat their employees better. I was wrong. Their health benefits weren’t all that great, and they don’t really hold to the standards they claim to.

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  31. Sue said on January 11, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    We belonged to a food buying club (legally couldn’t call ourselves a cooperative) that purchased from North Farm Cooperative in Madison WI. My hours job was babysitting on delivery day. Guess what, crunchy granola moms are as good at raising whiny brats as non-earth-mothers, and making a snack that was acceptable to all was impossible.
    I hated it, but it was the best way to get my buckets of tofu and bags of Little Bear Breakfast. Outpost Natural Foods was 45 minutes away. Most of the stuff I purchased all those years ago is now available in any grocery store, and I don’t have to buy a case at a time, either.

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  32. MichaelG said on January 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I don’t shop at Whole Foods very often and when I do I always come away feeling vaguely icky. They don’t have anything that I can’t get somewhere else for a lot cheaper. Their prices are confiscatory.

    There is a natural foods co-op not far from where I live but the people in there are even worse than those who shop at Whole Foods. The place is a religious shrine for them. I go there rarely as well and each time vow never to go again. They’re a bunch of weedy, self important, self loving, aging hippy types who are smugly self satisfied, aware that they’re superior to everybody including yours truly. They’re the same dweebs you see pimping pledges on your local public TV station during the never ending pledge weeks. It feels like everybody is staring at me in there. Their prices are sky high as well. I feel like I need a shower after shopping there. Why do those health food freaks always look so unhealthy and unattractive? Why are their meat and produce so shitty looking?

    I think Cooz and J. C. have pretty well described the schizo nature of the Whole Foods shopper. The store seems to have a following based on its brand name and based on its providing products that aren’t available in all areas.

    Food is a very competitive business here in Sacto. There are plenty of locally owned supermarkets and smaller stores where I can get a full range of very high quality stuff for reasonable prices including TJ’s (OK, so Pasadena isn’t really local). The big one is Corti brothers. The huge Asian supermarkets are a whole world unto themselves. Then there’s the Farmer’s Market which I would stack up against anyone’s. My favorite is the smallish, locally owned Taylor’s Market which is one of the best grocery stores I have ever seen. Very upscale and gourmetish (want pheasant stock? truffles?) but the people who work there are so friendly and down to earth and the building is so old and so not quite run down that one is immediately disarmed. I love the place. Great butcher shop as well. The kicker is that their prices are very competitive with Safeway.

    The Briddish chain, Fresh and Easy acquired some dirt in my ghetto neighborhood and was going to build a store for a 2009 opening but that got deferred because of the economic meltdown.

    I don’t know about this George Clooney guy, but I can tell you that I have had a serious letch for the beautiful Gina Gershon for many years. I heard her on an SF talk show one time. She was very smart, very quick and very funny. Yum.

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  33. LAMary said on January 11, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    You would probably have that Gina Gershon letch reduced by watching Showgirls. I watched about half of it on cable last week. A sucky movie if ever there was one.

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  34. Jeff Borden said on January 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Michael G,

    You MUST see “Bound” if you want to see Gina Gershon at her smokingest. Meg Tilly isn’t hard on the eyes, either. Joe Pantoliano is suitably creepy and sleazy as the bad guy. It is a nice, tight little crime thriller. . .right up there with “Red Rock West” as a clever neo-noir entry. We have it on DVD and watch it at least once per year.

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  35. Dorothy said on January 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm has five different movies called “Bound.” I’m assuming Nancy and Dexter are referring to the 1996 one, since MichaelG referenced Gina Gershon. Can you confirm this, Nance or Dexter?

    Also – has anyone else watched The Soloist on HBO? I recorded it a few days ago and watched it last night. It left much to be desired in my opinion, which was a disappointment after the previews we’d seen.

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  36. judybusy said on January 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Reading everyone’s comments about where they buy food makes me extremely grateful for the many co-ops in the Twin Cities. I go to the Wedge, which has been villified as yuppie, but the produce is amazing, and the meat is all local. I’m really into food and cooking, so having a great place to get my food means more to me than perhaps the average person.

    Movie-wise, we saw Avatar this weekend and loved it! We agreed the plot wasn’t too original (joking it was a cross between Pocahantas and Ferngully), but the environment on Pandora, the sci-fi, and the special effects make it well worth while.

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  37. Jolene said on January 11, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    “And where,” you’ve all been thinking, “has Jolene been?” Feeling left out, I joined the group of sickies last week w/ a condition that, unlike the circumstances moe and whitebeard are facing, was only briefly life-threatening.

    After returning from a holiday visit w/ my family, I began to develop a very sore throat, which didn’t entirely surprise me as I often seem to get sick when visiting that dry climate in the winter, and one of my sisters had been ill w/ what turned out to be a severe sinus infection.

    W/in about 36 hours of my first symptoms, my throat was swollen inside and tender outside. I couldn’t swallow or talk, so I decided I’d better get some help. I thought of calling 911, but, since I was ambulatory, decided that wasn’t necessary. Kept thinking of stories of people who call 911 if they have a headache and didn’t want that to be me. Thought of calling a cab, but wasn’t able to speak, so couldn’t make the call. Thus, I decided to drive myself to urgent care, which would have been OK, but I had a flat tire about a block from my apartment and ended up having to call a cab anyway–an enterprise that required four phone calls, as they kept hanging up on me while I struggled to get words out.

    Once I got there, they quickly sent me to the ER, then to the OR where I was sedated and intubated, and then to ICU where I was kept under sedation for a couple of days. Was stunned to discover when I awoke that 48 hours had passed while I was knocked out. (They used propofol, Michael Jackson’s favorite soporific to keep me under, but, fortunately, I had a better doctor.)

    Being intubated is about as unpleasant as anything I can imagine except, I suppose, what might have happened if I hadn’t been. Turns out that whatever infection I had (hadn’t been identified yet when I left the hospital) had turned into epiglottitis, an inflammation of the tissue that covers the windpipe, which, as you can imagine, is not a territory you want to have blocked off.

    So, now I’m home and recovering. My throat is still a bit raw, and I’m still coughing, but I’m doing OK thanks to high-tech medicine and massive doses of two different kinds of antibiotics.

    I did catch up w/ everything you all have said over the past week, but am sorry to report that I have no news re recent movie-viewing.

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  38. nancy said on January 11, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Dorothy, that’s the one. Gershon, Tilly and Joey Pants.

    Mackey’s problem isn’t just his views on health-care. He’s one of these navel-gazing libertarians who hasn’t met a situation he can’t cram into the last book he read, and the last book he read is almost surely crap. I take issue with that quote I pulled out, in which he blithely states “the diseases that are killing us — heart disease, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s — these diseases have a high correlation with diet. And that is some­thing that most people do not understand.”

    Heart disease and diabetes, absolutely. Some cancers, maybe. But MS? Alzheimer’s? Last I checked, the links between those diseases and diet were sketchy and not medically proven. Mackey’s one of these new-age passive-aggressive shitheads who thinks that if he can just find the correct combination of raw-vegan this and mega-vitamin that, he will live to be 120 and die in a tragic mountain-climbing accident. He wants to blame everything that goes wrong with *you* on *your* bad diet, while washing his hands — as the CEO of an elite grocery chain! — of any responsibility to work toward a solution that doesn’t require a $300 weekly food bill. I bet he’s tons of fun at Thanksgiving.

    That said, I agree they have good prepared foods to go, and their 365 line of house-branded stuff is fairly reasonable. The closest one is 20 miles from here, but I find I can patch together a pretty fair simulacrum of a Whole Foods market basket for a fraction of the price just by knowing the choices and driving a few more miles.

    This was the other key passage from that story that made me say a-ha, because I’ve known other people just like this:

    In the early eighties, Mackey told a reporter, “The union is like having herpes. It doesn’t kill you, but it’s unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover.” (That quote, to Mackey’s dismay, won’t go away, either.) His disdain for contemporary unionism is ideological, as well as self-serving. Like many who have come before, he says that it was only when he started a business—when he had to meet payroll and deal with government red tape—that his political and economic views, fed on readings of Friedman, Rand, and the Austrians, veered to the right. But there is also a psychological dimension. It derives in large part from a tendency, common among smart people, to presume that everyone in the world either does or should think as he does—to take for granted that people can (or want to) strike his patented balance of enlightenment and self-interest. It sometimes sounds as if he believed that, if every company had him at the helm, there would be no need for unions or health-care reform, and that therefore every company should have someone like him, and that therefore there should be no unions or health-care reform. In other words, because he runs a business a certain way, others will, can, and should, and so the safeguards that have evolved over the generations to protect against human venality—against, say, greedy, bullying bosses—are no longer necessary. The logic is as sound as the presumption is preposterous.

    By the way, I see I forgot to include a link to that story in the post. Fixed now.

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  39. ROgirl said on January 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    In December I went into my local WF. There was a display in one of the aisles with Hannukah items, things like decorations, cups and plates, menorahs and candles. A box of Hannukah candles, normally something you can get for a few dollars at many grocery stores, was $25. They were beeswax and dripless, but not dipped in gold.

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  40. Jolene said on January 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Dorothy, I saw The Soloist on HBO and was similarly underwhelmed. On the other hand, I saw Sunshine Cleaning on some cable channel or other and thought it was really well done. Charming in a low-key way, and it has Alan Arkin, who has been one of my favorite actors since forever.

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  41. nancy said on January 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Good God, Jolene. Take care of yourself. I’ve never heard of epiglottitis.

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  42. Jolene said on January 11, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Good God, Jolene. Take care of your­self. I’ve never heard of epiglottitis.

    I’d never heard of it either. The anesthesiologist who took care of me said it’s fairly rare. The ENT guy says it tends to occur in older people who got fewer vaccinations than kids do now–at least kids whose parents aren’t crazy.

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  43. Jolene said on January 11, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Just before the Harry Reid flap, which is a Kinsleyesque gaffe if ever I heard of one, Ta-Nehisi Coates had a very funny post about the U.S. Census including “Negro” as one of the groups one could choose as a racial/ethnic indicator. Check it out.

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  44. Sue said on January 11, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Jolene, obviously you haven’t been eating right. Shame on you. (See Nancy @ 38)

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  45. Dorothy said on January 11, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Jolene my heavens!! I’m glad it all turned out all right! Of course I’ve heard of the epiglottis but didn’t know it could get inflamed in such a life-threatening manner. Goodness the nn.c-ers have had more than their share of bad health stories lately.

    On the “good news” side of the equation I have to tell you all that my mother (87 yrs old) went to the hospital last week and had an irregular heart beat and pneumonia. Today she was supposed to have a treatment to shock the heart into normal rhythm but as they were ready to start the procedure, they checked her heart routinely and it had returned to normal sinus rhythm! They were amazed – it doesn’t happen all that often but in her case, it did and we’re all very glad. She’s recovering from the pneumonia and should be home in a couple of days.

    The nurses and doctors have been raving over what a young 87 year old she is. But we already knew that in my family!

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  46. coozledad said on January 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Michael G: There are a variety of reasons why some co-op folks might appear unhealthy, but a lot of it comes down to them being a a natural gathering place for food-phobics or obsessives.
    Mackey doesn’t seem to understand the links between diet and arrogance, apparently. When I first switched to a vegetarian diet, I lost a lot of weight, and looked and felt better. But in the intervening years I discovered alternative sources of fat, salt and cholesterol, and, as happens with a small percentage of vegetarians, lost some degree of thyroid function and developed wattles like a damn chicken.
    Speaking of which, Mackey’s probably a closet fried chicken-liver horfer.

    Jolene: I’m sorry to hear about your illness, but glad you’re out of the woods.

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  47. 4dbirds said on January 11, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Really Joline, you need to shop at WF and you’ll never get that infection again. 🙂 Seriously, I’m glad you’re ok. If I remember correctly, you live sorta, kinda, around me. Northern Virginia? You need my number, then next time you need a ride you can call or text me. I live in Sterling, just barely. Our house is about into Loudoun County (coming from Fairfax County).

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  48. maryinIN said on January 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm


    I’ve only posted here once before and don’t recall what my “name” was. But I do read pretty regularly and find you-all interesting.

    Anyway, the discussion on food and Whole Foods caught my eye. I have been buying 100% of my beef, lamb, and pork, and 50% of my chicken from local farmers that I located through our farmers’ market. It’s pasture fed, no antibiotics, etc, processed locally. It’s very tasty, too. What took us in this direction were the awful stories about feedlots, tainted ground beef, etc. It only comes frozen. Since I have a freezer, I buy 1/2 a lamb OR 1/4 a cow at a time and then the price comes down to about $4.50 a pound. Not too bad. And all our meat has a paper trail, too. Our ground meat is from “our” animal, no mixing batches from all over the globe.

    Since I can find this in Indiana, not known as a hotbed of trends, it must be available in other places as well. If you’re concerned about your meat, I recommend you look for a local farmer as well.

    About the movies, we are looking forward to seeing Up In the Air. We did see The Young Victoria which we liked, especially for the story line (palace intrigue), the visuals, and the very talented Emily Blunt as the teenager-queen and Jim Broadbent (hilarious!) in a small role as her uncle, the king. People might not know what to expect, though, so it may have a little trouble finding an audience. When people hear “teen” and “queen” they may think petulant, fluffy, or something, which it definitely was not. As for actors, I myself like Russell Crowe. Don’t mind if you don’t, however.

    By the way, Nancy, I love that I have time to edit my comments. I tend to do that and your site lets me!

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  49. Jen said on January 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Greetings, people, from sunny but chilly Florida! Pilot Joe wanted me to let you all know that he ran his marathon in 3:54. He was expecting about 4 hours, so he was very pleased. He also could walk AND go up & down stairs easily today, so he was especially happy! Overall, a good marathon!

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  50. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Jolene, intubation is less than not fun. Glad you’re well, or weller. Please to stay well, with a non-inflamed epiglottis. I learned a new word today — epiglottitis. Blecchhh.

    Never been to Whole Foods — we have Kroger, Giant Eagle, or Meijer . . . well, we have a local grocer in the village, that rara avis in an era of chains, Ross’ Granville Market, which is no co-op, but a great purveyor of Ohio produce & protein insofar as they can get it without too much excess strain, and a wonderful ethnic/exotic/non-ordinary food aisle given that the nearest Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods is 30 to 45 miles away, and not a fun drive (i can’t complain, it’s level, just too many merges).

    I’m guessing that “Bound” is not PG-13 from the commentary thus far? As i recall, “Showgirls” had trouble pulling an R rating, but shrouded their final edit into an R (but i’m sure there was a director’s cut, or director’s indulgence for the full montification).

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  51. brian stouder said on January 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Jolene – it’s good to hear that your difficulties ended well.

    I confess that it struck me as darkly humorous that once you decided you were NOT going to call an ambulance, by God, you stuck to that resolution!!

    If it were me – I’d probably have decided to drive too; but when the tire went flat I’d have either dialed 911 for the ambulance, or else driven on the rims to the damned hospital, before I’d have thought to call a cab.

    By way of saying, you have a great deal more sense and orderly thinking than I do

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  52. MichaelG said on January 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    I’ve seen both Showgirls and Bound. Showgirls was truly an awful movie but there were some pretty girls to see. Bound was an excellent movie

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  53. nancy said on January 11, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    “Showgirls” was the first — or among the first — mainstream studio releases to be specifically crafted for an NC-17. Any R-rated version you saw was NOT the craptacular original, in which every choice made by writer, director and actor was, “Low or lower? Or hell, isn’t there a lowest road anywhere around here we can take?”

    It should not surprise you to learn it’s very popular among gay men. Camp. Classic.

    “Bound” is R-rated, and deservedly so. Several scenes of hot lesbo action, plus Gina in men’s Y-fronts.

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  54. LAMary said on January 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    I can pull together pretty much everything I need without giving Whole Foods any of my money, and trust me, there are plenty of Whole Foods within a fifteen mile radius. Give me the local farmers markets, Trader Joes, and Costco and I can assemble as good or better than the folks at Whole Paycheck can offer.

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  55. Dexter said on January 11, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    3:54? Incredible! 26 miles + in that time, for a guy who works by sitting in a cramped cockpit during the night?
    Way to go, Joe. It takes me 1:45 to ride a 21-speed road-bicycle that far!

    I have decided to buy an Ohio Classic Lotto ticket. Big party here if…er…when I hit.

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  56. Scout said on January 11, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    I’m with the rest of you who find Whole Foods to be snooty and overpriced. Trader Joe’s and COSTCO get most of our grocery money and lately we’ve been buying beans, rice, quinoa, etc. from the bulk bins at Sprouts. Every so often I have to suck it up and visit the WF for some vegan items I can’t get anywhere else.

    Raise your hand if you didn’t see the Queen Wasillabilly/Fox “News” match coming from miles away. She no more wants to be president than I do.

    Jolene, glad to hear you came out on the right side of your ordeal!

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  57. moe99 said on January 11, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I wrote my first post upthread on my BB from the hospital this am prior to surgically implanting a substance on my frozen vocal cord to expand it out. No major talking for 5-7 days as we see if the implant worked. My throat feels just like yours does, Jolene! We can be sisters! So hears some fervent hope for you that you heal fast

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  58. Julie Robinson said on January 11, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Fervent hopes for everyone on that fast healing, and rejoicing that Dorothy’s Mom is better. I’m headed up to Illinois tomorrow to hold my Mom’s hand through cataract surgery. A no big deal thing for most people but a very big deal thing for her. My job will mostly be to keep her distracted. Fortunately I found a book of short stories about cats at the library and that should help.

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  59. Jolene said on January 11, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Julie, I’d just come across this article re reading aloud in Cuban cigar factories when I saw your post about reading to your mother. It’s a lovely activity in all sorts of settings.

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  60. Julie Robinson said on January 11, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    I’d heard about that before, Jolene–what a great tradition even though it’s in service to tobacco. For 15 years I worked at a radio reading service–we read newspapers and magazines over closed circuit radio for the visually impaired. I had always loved to read aloud but that taught me the art of it, as well as the ability to bluff my way through almost any word. Even got decent at the Russian hockey player names, but I’ll admit Burmese had me stumped.

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  61. Rana said on January 11, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    *healing thoughts to all who need them*

    (I’m starting to need a list! Get well, all!)

    I have always had mixed feelings about natural foods stores, either of the grunchy co-op or the Whole Foods variety – the mixture of weird seedy-ness and holier-than-thou foody-ness does indeed wear thin. But if that’s the sort of food and household goods you want…

    I remember, once, almost crying with relief upon encountering the Minneapolis Whole Foods after a year and a half in small-town Minnesota – it was such a pleasure to look at a whole store of food I could and wanted to eat, instead of ones where my weekly shopping consisted of scavenging in a few limited aisles between massive amounts of stuff I’d never eat, and reading every label with great intensity to make sure I could identify the ingredients as food. Being able to just grab stuff off the shelf simply because it looks tasty is a convenience that’s easy to take for granted.

    (CSAs are wonderful, as are farmers’ markets, but they’re not always much better than the grocery stores, and CSAs, with their spring-summer-fall schedule, are not ideal for itinerant academics, who usually move in the summer. Ditto gardens.)

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  62. moe99 said on January 11, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    “Grunchy.” What a great term, Rana.

    And C’dad, you paint with more than brushes. Love to read your posts.

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  63. Deborah said on January 11, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Moe, good luck on your implant, sounds amazing.

    Jolene, take care of yourself, rest up, don’t take it too fast getting back in the rat race. I would have been a basket case at the point of the flat tire. You must be one strong lady.

    Dorothy your Mom sounds like my 90 year old mother-in-law, who is going to have hip replacement surgery in Feb. You’d never in a million years know she was 90. She barely looks and acts like an 80 year old, more like mid 70s.

    And Julie, reading to your mom sounds so pleasant.

    And Whitebeard out there, thinking about you too.

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  64. Jolene said on January 11, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Nice to see that another major university has chosen a woman as its president. Teresa Sullivan is leaving her post as provost at Michigan to become president of the University of Virginia. These are big jobs; not long ago, a woman in such a position was a huge anomaly, and, along w/ her other achievements, she has raised two sons. Very impressive.

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  65. Kirk said on January 11, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Karen Holbrook was president of Ohio State until 2007. For better or worse, she will be primarily remembered (and hugely despised) for cracking down on idiotic, drunken behavior on football game days.

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  66. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    At Ohio State?

    (I recall walking through the tailgate parking lots and seeing some very socially unacceptable and some might even say sexist signs referencing said president of OSU and her . . . not implementation, but enforcement of what apparently were long-standing but entirely overlooked rules as to open containers and adult beverage consumption in university parking lots. Her trailbreaking qualities were not noted in the handmade signage i saw around the tailgate vans and buses and semi-trailers.)

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  67. Kirk said on January 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Yes, an enlightened bunch, those OSU football tailgaters.

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  68. Jolene said on January 11, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    According to Wikipedia, Hanna Holborn Gray at the University of Chicago was the first female president of a major American university. Judy Rodin, another academic star, was president of Penn for several years and is now head of the Rockefeller Foundation. Drew Gilpin Faust* is currently president of Harvard. I’m sure there are many that I’ve missed.

    *You American history buffs might be interested in her book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. It’s supposed to be very good.

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  69. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    What i didn’t realize until a few years ago — there’s 60,000+ inside the stadium, but there’s easily another 60,000+ who never even come close to the stadium, but watch the game in the parking lots after tailgating all morning and sometimes afternoon: and many of those have never, ever been inside of Ohio Stadium.

    But they’ve tailgated hundreds of homegames without a break, even epiglottitis. It’s an achievement . . . of a sort.

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  70. Kirk said on January 11, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Yes, that’s been going on for years. I don’t get the appeal, but lots of people go for it. If I didn’t have a ticket to an event that draws more than 100,000 inside the stadium (it’s a lot bigger than 60,000+), I sure wouldn’t want to fight my way through traffic just to go sit around outside.

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  71. Dorothy said on January 11, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Okay have to brag on myself since Julie mentioned reading out loud. I’m a lector at my church, and this past Sunday I read the first reading at 10:00 Mass. It was a particularly good one (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11) – it had the added bonus of the word ‘expiated’ which I pronounced correctly. I tried to put a lot of feeling into the words. On my way out of church, a woman I see most weeks approached me and grabbed my arm and said “I LOVE when you read at Mass! I’m always so glad to see when you approach the lectern!” Then she hugged me! What a nice way to get Sunday started! I have to admit other people have complimented me on the way I read. But that was my first hug!

    After she walked away my husband looked at me, twinkle in his eye, and simply said “WELL!”

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  72. brian stouder said on January 11, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    You go, Dorothy!

    But you have the unfair advantage of being comfortable reciting lines in front of a large bunch of people; and I bet you make sure the folks in the back of the church can hear you, too

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  73. Dexter said on January 11, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Twelve years ago I was relegated to watching the Michigan game on a TV that was in a tent on one of those little patches of grass just north of Ohio Stadium between Woody Hayes Drive and the stadium. I had gone to the game with a wad of cash figuring to buy my way in , but there were no ticket sellers, as my plan to wait until the game was just about to kick off before making my purchase backfired as everybody went inside and left me there with no way to get in.
    It was odd being outside and hearing the crowd and having to follow the game on a TV set just a stone’s throw from the stadium, but it was better than just sitting at home watching the TV there again.
    The same thing happened to me at Notre Dame one year and one year in Ann Arbor I watched the OSU game from Frazier Pub’s tent. That was kind of fun. It’s good being around people having fun. A cheap adventure, but still fun.

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  74. Bill said on January 12, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Reading in Cuba’s cigar factories was carried to Tampa’s Ybor City cigar factories and was the inspiration for the 2003 Nobel prize-winning play, “Anna in the Tropics” by Nilo Cruz. More info at:

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  75. Denice B. said on January 12, 2010 at 12:51 am

    I work with elderly people. It’s nearly impossible to get them to stop referring to the black women at work as ‘colored girls’.

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  76. moe99 said on January 12, 2010 at 1:29 am

    I read the Lord of the Rings to the kids when they were young. We all enjoyed that.

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  77. whitebeard said on January 13, 2010 at 1:47 am

    I read Jane Austen for hours to my wife’s mother when she was in a nursing home with Alzheimers and whenever I made a name slip, she would correct me with a “No” although she did not have many conversational skills left by that time. She could not remember my name but always called me “The Big One” because I am, well, big.
    Took the first half of nuclear heart stress tests on Tuesday and will do the second half on Thursday to evaluate my surgical risks. The highlight of my weekend was getting a hospital bed by the window while I was under “observation” for 24 hours while they tried to coax my innards into working correctly. Surgery date os not definite yet, but soonest is the watchword.

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  78. Brendan said on January 13, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Thanks for the link to the “Game Change” excerpt, the kind that would actually get me to buy that book. With all the rash of scandals and big news stories, we sort of forgot about Edwards. But, man oh man, will history look back at that and say, here’s a guy who legitimately could have become President of the United States. He totally had the persona, presence, following, message. This was the complete political package. Not claiming to have been a big Edwards supporter, but I will say I thought his “Two Americas” message was powerful.

    And then you read this and say, a guy this narcissistic with influential powers behind him, at best, a bit imbalanced and you think, this guy could have been president! Still thinking, wasn’t this Bill Clinton, too? And then, does it matter?

    Aside, seemed like an unbelievable hatchet job on Elizabeth Edwards. But that’s the power of the media lens – in both positive (St. Elizabeth) and negative lens.

    Who knows, but clearly a compelling story from my perspective. Thanks again.

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