Our own private Idaho.

The temperature rose yesterday to a notch or two above freezing, then fell. A dusting of new snow arrived around nightfall. Fog covered everything until it froze, and that’s where it stands now — silver-plated world. Everything is white, not too cold, and the air is so heavy with moisture it can mean only one thing. One or two more inches coming up from the south; should be here momentarily. I’d like to take a walk in it. Maybe I will.

From Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, No. 1: Never open a book with weather. Well, this isn’t a book. It’s the first draft of personal history. And I’m allowed to talk about the weather.

A job I wish I had: Smashing up the ice on the St. Clair River. Seriously. My favorite thing is when the spring rains come in cloudbursts, and the storm drain in front of my neighbor’s house clogs with spring tree-gunk, and I get to wade through the warm puddles with my rake and clear it. Actually piloting an icebreaker through a troublesome jam to send the backed-up water on its way? Bliss. It would be storm-drain clearance on steroids.

Nance’s Rules of Writing: Don’t use stupid, dated, not-very-creative-when-they-were-coined, let-alone-now catch phrases like “on steroids.”

OK, then. I don’t want to continue yesterday’s depressing discussion for too much longer — I mean, in a silver world, you want to be optimistic — but I caught part of “Fresh Air” yesterday, and it seemed to pertain, a little. Journalist David Weigel of the Washington Independent was speaking on the new right, the right on steroids, the super-righty right represented by the teabaggers and CPAC. You know CPAC — these are the folks who were making jokes about flying a plane into an IRS building and killing a 68-year-old veteran (two tours, Vietnam). And of course you know the Tea Party.

I was struck by the portion of the interview where Terry Gross asked Weigel about what the teabaggers believe about the financial meltdown that started the cascading economic catastrophes of the past two years. He said they blame the whole thing on Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and the Community Reinvestment Act, which is both not surprising and pretty depressing. I’ve said this before and it didn’t originate with me, but this is what we’re moving toward — a media landscape where not only spin varies from outlet to outlet, but the very facts themselves. Wall Street is not underregulated; Barney Frank is the problem. And vaccines cause autism, of course they do.

Here’s the other thing that struck me: How the sorts of wackos I used to hear on my radio show(s) back in the day — the freakazoids who stayed up all night at the card table under the bare light bulb, writing their single-spaced manifestos or letters to the editor or whatever, who would call and rant about the Bilderbergers and the Federal Reserve and the loss of the gold standard and (my personal favorite) Ezra Pound, that genius — these folks are now being welcomed into the mainstream conservative movement. And they have some new entertaining ideas, about the president’s birth certificate and death panels and so on. And a new spokesgal, who is much prettier than they are.

How comforting.

I ran into one of these guys one day, at Best Buy. I thought it was brave of him to introduce himself, although I probably should have recognized him from his public-access TV show. We chatted a bit. He was pricing camcorders, but dammit, none of them had the feature he needed. Which was?

“Night vision,” he said.

His public-access show was entertaining. This is how he gave web addresses: “H, T, T, P. Colon. Backslash, backslash. T-R-I-P-O-D. Dot — this is a period — C-O-M. Backslash. Tilde. This is the key to the left of the numeral 1, but you have to shift…”

Anyway, they were joking from the CPAC podium about Joseph Stack, the IRS bomber. Had to check to make sure it wasn’t Grover Norquist at the controls, ha ha. Imagine the reaction if– oh, why bother even bringing it up? The liberal media, etc. etc.

I’ll say this: I’m really glad I don’t live in Indiana anymore. I’m sure these folks are all over the place. I see two Don’t Tread on Me flags waving in the neighborhood here, but it’s not a friendly place for the most part, so I don’t feel like I have to smile at them or anything.

Ach. We need to go out with some levity. How about this essay on Rielle Hunter’s “quiet dignity.” Not talking to the media about your stupid life choices qualifies as quiet dignity now? Evidently:

In the early days, Americans came to think of her in the sleaziest terms: the former party girl who used sexual wiles and New Age mumbo jumbo to steal Elizabeth’s husband. Most self-respecting women would feel compelled to say something, anything, in their own defense. And most modern mistresses would do much more than that. A fame-chasing Rielle would have come forward in the first days of her sex scandal, even if it meant defying John’s wishes. She would have talked and talked as the interviews declined in influence, the sad journey from Barbara Walters to Billy Bush. By now she’d have finished her book tour. We’d see her hawking an Internet sex column or sharing Twitpics of Quinn to thousands of followers.

Or maybe, just mayyybeee, she’s holding out for the big payday. Just a thought. Maybe the quiet-dignity meter was recalibrated while I was worrying about the Tea Party, but in my experience, a person who has it doesn’t say things like this:

That same spring, Rielle came to dinner at my home in New York. The Edwardses had just announced that Elizabeth’s cancer was back and was incurable, engendering a national outpouring of support. That didn’t stop Rielle from explaining to the group at dinner, which included journalists from other national publications, that Elizabeth had gotten cancer because she was filled with “bad energy.”

OK, then. Back to the sweatshop! Copy due in two hours!

Posted at 10:05 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' |

28 responses to “Our own private Idaho.”

  1. 4dbirds said on February 24, 2010 at 10:17 am

    “that Eliz­a­beth had got­ten can­cer because she was filled with “bad energy.””

    I guess my two year old daughter got cancer and my sister died from breast cancer because of their bad energy. All this time I thought it was a mutant cell.

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  2. Bob (not Greene) said on February 24, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Nance, complaining about one’s predicament is a reporter’s life blood. What else do we have? Thing is, I like my job. The problem is that there are people out there who actually believe we just make shit up. They believe this, because they have been fed this line at a national level over and over and over. It filters down to the lowest level. Like direct quotes from the village goddamn president. He didn’t remember saying it and that it wasn’t “in his notes.” Yeah, no shit, Jack. It’s in my notes, though. But I made it up and scrawled it in there in the middle of an interview just to embarrass you. Really. Like that is so in my best interest. Like I have an actual stake in this shit.

    People joke about Sarah Palin and the Tea Party because they are so clearly either willfully ignorant, just plain stupid or deranged. But they scare the crap out of me, because their positions require no basis in fact and are apparently bullet-proof. It’s like their religion. They have faith in their beliefs no matter how off the wall they are, you can’t argue with them, can’t reason with them, can’t convince them otherwise. And there are lots and lots of them here in ‘Murica.

    OK, I’m done ranting. Gotta go make up some more shit about village politics.

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  3. Jeff Borden said on February 24, 2010 at 10:31 am

    The past couple of weeks in right-wing land as seen through the prisms of the Tea Party gathering in Nashville and the CPAC meeting in Washington have been appalling to witness. If it wasn’t the doofus from World Nut Daily pushing his birther theories to the teabaggers, it was that dunce joking about kamikaze attack on the IRS building in Austin at CPAC, all to the sounds of laughter, cheers and applause. I continue to believe there are elements of the conservative philosophy that are useful and desired for the proper governance of the nation. But how can I, in good conscience, ever support a national Republican candidate when the party seems hellbent on reinventing itself as some sort of weird Randian organization with a fetish for torture? Mother of God, Dick Cheney, the symbol of all that is wrong, twisted and evil in American policy, was greeted like a rock star at CPAC, which was co-sponsored this year by the John Birch Society.

    Only one thing raised my spirits. Some asshole homophobe representing another of those frat-boy Republican youth groups was booed off the stage when he blasted CPAC for allowing a gay rights group to set up a booth.

    Think about that. In 2004, led by Karl Rove, the GOP was pushing the Defense of Marriage Act and other anti-gay legislation to turn out the base. Less than six years later, a foaming-at-the-mouth homo-hater is shouted down.

    This is progress. Homophobia as an electoral policy is waning fast.

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  4. coozledad said on February 24, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I wonder if Cheney’s latest medical episode has anything to do with Ray Odierno finally confirming Achmed Chalabi as an Iranian asset. Cheney and his puppet need to be hauled up before a military tribunal, even though it’s obvious they were just marks. The Republicans need their noses publicly rubbed in this stunning failure.
    Me and my wife were having lunch in DC several years back when that hill of shit Helms was still drawing breath and in office. The outdoor dining area was crowded, and we were about done, so we offered our seats to some young women who’d been waiting. They were Helms staffers. One of them was a snippy little Chilean rightist, who in a protracted spittle-flecked defense of Augusto Pinochet, forgot we we’d offered her the seat to begin with. Nazism is not a lefty phenomenon. Nor is it privately criticized by the right. They love them some Nazis: Party, boots and all.

    OT, but Erik at Alterdestiny has a nice takedown of yet another Republican sponsored genocide:

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  5. moe99 said on February 24, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I understand John McCain is now saying it wasn’t he who suspended his campaign in 2008 to return to DC to work on the financial crisis–it was done at the request of George W. Bush! What he forget to figure in his calculations for making this revelation is that he has now confessed to being W’s beyotch!!!

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  6. Sue said on February 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

    It was a dark and stormy night…
    Elmore may be right, but we wouldn’t have this is everyone followed that rule:

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  7. Sue said on February 24, 2010 at 11:42 am

    On Rielle: I am similarly amused by all the coverage of Tiger’s ladies, the ones who have lawyers and spokespeople to tell us how veryvery hurt they were to find out that Tiger was fibbing when he told them they were “the only one in his life, besides his wife”. Reporters respectfully refrain from asking obvious followup questions or pointing out the absolute absurdity of the statements.

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  8. beb said on February 24, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    The last place I was at before coming to Nancy’s site was Boing Boing dot net which had a feature on Advise to writers based on Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules for Writing. I liked the advise one writer (not Leonard) gave, which is that if you’re serous about being a writer — “hire an accountant.” Meaning, I’m thinking, that self-employment taxes are not for the faint of heart.

    But anyway after reading that I come here and Nancy’s talking about rules of writing, too. I think someone was visiting Boingboing just before. too.

    My plans for the weekend is to go up to Gibralter Trade Center and have the little sign shop there cut me a bumper sticker “2L4O” — Too liberal for Obama, because that’s how I feel. (It’s a T-shirt design but I’ve not seen it as a bumper sticker anywhere.)

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  9. Ann said on February 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Leaving the depressing politics and journalism news to others, I just came over to say thanks for the great ice-breaking video. I’m with you all the way on that one.

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  10. moe99 said on February 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    If Rielle hied herself to a nunnery or beguinage, then I might consider thinking about describing her as having ‘quiet dignity.’ But that’s a pretty big “might.”

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  11. Linda said on February 24, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I read the Rielle Hunter article and thought, if she hired a P.R. firm, she’s getting her money’s worth.

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  12. Dexter said on February 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    We got snow last night too, and when we get snow and melting ice I always go to the curb and open up the four little holes on the manhole cover to allow the river to flow underground. I know I have shovelled snow more times than ever before; it seems like I am out there four or five days a week with my shovel.
    Deborah: I think this looks like a bleached-out version of my old ’66 GMC truck’s radiator. Your thoughts?

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  13. Jeff Borden said on February 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm


    My wife’s office is right by the Aqua. It’s actually a truly beautiful building. . .very eye-catching from every angle. I’m mildly surprised the Trump Tower in Chicago made the list. It is not the kind of egregiously ugly tower you’d expect from The Donald, but it’s rather bland.

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  14. Sue said on February 24, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Who knew we’d so soon be missing the days of that flaming liberal, Carrie Prejean?

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  15. Jeff Borden said on February 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Well, now that we have Rush Limbaugh throwing spitballs at Glenn Beck and teabaggers mad at newly minted conservahero Scott Brown and rank and filers pissed off over RNC chairman Michael Steele’s profligacy, I guess a catfight in chocolate pudding at the next CPAC gathering is in the future for Carrie Prejean and Lauren Ashley.

    Those wacky Republicans. I thought they were supposed to be the sane, sober, business-like party and the Dems were supposed to be the angry, emotional, lead with the heart group. How times have changed.

    Perhaps she is sincere and thinks she will cash in like Princess Jesus Boobies by bashing the gays, but I’ll bet Ms. Ashley turns out to be a scammer.

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  16. Sue said on February 24, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Apparently there is no “Miss Beverly Hills” pageant. So, she’s a scammer big time or she’s trying to make a fool of someone (liberals who’ll believe anything? conservatives who’ll follow anyone?) by making a fool of herself.

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  17. Jeff Borden said on February 24, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    One of the stories I read about this nutjob noted that there is no such thing as Miss Beverly Hills and quoted the mayor as saying the tony town was appalled by Ms. Ashley. The LAT reports B.H. is now contacting the Miss California pageant honchos to see how it can prevent contestants from using the Beverly Hills name. The same report notes that Ms. Ashley is actually from Pasadena.

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  18. Bob (not Greene) said on February 24, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Sounds like a plant. Sneaky.

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  19. brian stouder said on February 24, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Dexter – cool link! That skyscraper IS different – and that’s a good thing.

    I get the ripply watery vibe from some of the photos (mostly up close), but shots from further away strike me as distinctly less “aqueous” and more “needs ironed”; rumpled clothes-pulled-from-the-dryer.

    One serious question, though – is how much snow and ice all those protrusions will hang onto, during a Chicago winter? Not being snarky – that would concern me if I lived or worked near it.

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  20. Jeff Borden said on February 24, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Ice falling from tall buildings is always a danger. The design of the Aqua doesn’t look any more or less risky than any other high-rise. A poor visitor from Wisconsin was killed on Michigan Avenue several years ago, right outside the Nieman-Marcus store, when a hefty chunk of ice was dislodged from the roof of the condos over the store and struck him squarely on the head. Since then, yellow or orange traffic cones and signs warning of falling ice are fairly prevalent near any building of any significant size.

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  21. Deborah said on February 24, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Dexter and others, I also like the Aqua building but my husband who teaches architecture at IIT is not quite that taken. Ms. Gang, the architect of the building also teaches at IIT. The thing I find impressive about the building is not so much the way it looks, although I like that too, but the fact that those wavy balconies reduce the wind load on the building. Because of that the top of the building does not require a counter weight as many (almost all) of the highrise buildings in Chicago need to keep from toppling over in the excessive wind we have here. There was an article in the New Yorker a few weeks ago by the architectural critic, Paul Goldberger.

    And ice falling from tall buildings is how I imagine my end. I figure I’ll be walking to work past the Hancock Building one morning and that will be that. I’ve seen enormous chunks falling from buildings especially the Hancock. I don’t know how true this is but I’ve heard that the Hancock spends a lot of money on settlements each year for the damages that are done around it because of the weather.

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  22. MarkH said on February 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Sue at #7, you need to be more specific: It’s long past time for every one of Tiger’s whores, excuse me, professional victims, to STFU.

    And NEWSWEEK actually printed that Reille Hunter piece with a straight face??

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  23. alex said on February 24, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Jeff B, wow I remember the cheesehead getting conked in front of Nieman-Marcus. That was in the early ’90s. Doesn’t seem all that long ago, but it was. He was waiting on his daughter who was taking a college entrance exam at DePaul or somewhere. What made it memorable for me was that I worked very nearby and it happened during my lunch hour and I was trying to make my way through the crowds of curiosity seekers behind the police cordon.

    That was during my days as a “frivolous suit” at the American Bar Association. Ba-dump-bump.

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  24. LAMary said on February 24, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    I think Mariska Hargitay was Miss Beverly Hills at one point. I need to go check her bio. Now she’s doing lesbian teaser scenes with Kathy Griffin on Law and Order SUV.

    Mariska was Miss Beverly Hills 1982. Someone is lying or they stopped having a Miss Beverly Hills pageant.

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  25. Dexter said on February 24, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    I wonder…since people have been killed by window glass falling to the street due to wind , has anyone been impaled and killed by a falling icicle?
    For me, Lake Point Tower and Marina City have meant “Chicago” for decades.

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  26. Kim said on February 25, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Bob (not Greene) and all the other journos out there who have been accused of making it up: Here’s the story we used from a student journalist who was at the boring press conference but paying close attention (and recording it) because she didn’t want to get it wrong. Note the link to actually listen to the state delegate saying the words he now says were “poorly chosen” and misinterpreted. As you might expect, there’s been a fecal avalanche as a result. Rachel M., HuffPost, Sally Quinn – everybody’s weighing in.

    There’s a movement to skewer the student reporter because she is a student and because much larger, “actual” papers were present and totally missed it. Why’d they miss it? My guess is they were just making the doughnuts, going to a conservative legislator’s press conference about de-funding Planned Parenthood and filing that Saturday feed-the-beast story. Similar to the reason a local delegate who was present as a supporter of de-funding PP did not hear it – she admitted to not paying attention because she was talking to another delegate.

    Quite a lesson for the student. I’d say for public officials everywhere, too, but that would make me seem much younger than I am.

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  27. nancy said on February 25, 2010 at 9:23 am


    Just read the story. Amazing.

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  28. Bob (not Greene) said on February 25, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Holy crap, Kim. That said, I can’t believe everyone else missed that quote. They must have been positively comatose, or in agreement, or both.

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