You know how being sick with a subclinical malaise is — you feel fine until, all of a sudden, you feel awful. That’s me today. Let’s see how far fine can take me this morning.
As for my comments about “Winter’s Bone,” I keep coming back to a minor thread of the story — the main character, a 17-year-old girl, and her intention to join the army. The film is the story of this girl, Ree Dolly, and her quest to find her father, dead or alive. Charged with cooking meth, he bailed himself out by putting their house up for part of his bond. Now missing and presumed a fugitive, the family is days away from losing everything. And they don’t have much to lose. The Dolly family — Ree, her mentally ill, nearly catatonic mother and two young siblings — lives at the edge of the edge, in the Missouri Ozarks, in the sort of grinding, rural poverty where a neighbor stopping by with some venison and a few potatoes is the difference between being hungry that night or not. Career options seem to be limited to cooking meth or touring beautiful Fallujah. Ree’s inclination toward the service is covered in only a few lines, but it stuck with me.
She’s certainly qualified, with an interior toughness that you get only after years of the sort of things we see in the movie – poverty, criminal activity, an insular rural culture where women bond with men for the same protection it afforded Neanderthals, then learn to never, ever open their mouths. About anything. I’d hire her to be an army of one. And while I know that the armed service has always been a step into a sort of stability for exactly this level of society, it’s impossible not to think about our current military adventures overseas and think Ree might be no worse off dealing crank.
I was strongly reminded of Annie Proulx’s short story, ‘Tits-up in a Ditch,” two years old but surely in an anthology somewhere by now (and, for you New Yorker subscribers, in the digital edition), another story of just how hard hardscrabble can be.
Anyway, I had a late dissenter in Monday’s thread, calling “Winter’s Bone” a whole lot of wannabe Cormac McCarthy. I see the criticism, but I disagree, or rather, I don’t find wannabe-McCarthy enough of a charge to make it not worth your time. The story is smart about so much, and, like “Frozen River,” has the sense to show far more than it tells, and trust its audience to figure it out. There are some wonderful supporting performances, especially by John Hawkes and Dale Dickey, both of whom could have been cast on bone structure alone, but follow it up by actually climbing inside the skins of their characters. A truly haunting film.
And now I am racked with a coughing spasm. Looks like awful is just around the corner, so let’s get some bloggage out of the way, shall we?
Speaking of Alaska, Anne Applebaum makes a few points:
For whatever the reason, the hypocrisy at the heart of the (Republican) party – and at the heart of American politics – is at its starkest in Alaska. For decades, Alaskans have lived off federal welfare. Taxpayers’ money subsidizes everything from Alaska’s roads and bridges to its myriad programs for Native Americans. Federal funding accounts for one-third of Alaskan jobs. Nevertheless, Alaskans love to think of themselves as the last frontiersmen, the inhabitants of a land “beyond the horizon of urban clutter,” a state with no use for Washington and its wicked ways.
And speaking of monetary policy, as someone who used to host a radio show where I heard from insane Fed-bashers on a regular basis, I was interested to read Bethany McLean’s explainer on how Fed-bashing has gone mainstream, in Slate.
Irresistible headline, funny column: For black men who have considered homicide after watching another Tyler Perry movie. Via Hank.
And because monetary policy isn’t all we’re about here, some pop-cult — JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, via Roy. I see strong correlations with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, i.e., a retro soul band with four white hipsters in the back row, playing in their stingy-brim fedoras, etc., with an ol’ skool African American vocalist out front. If anyone can name a third, I’m calling trendsies. Nevertheless, “Baltimore is the New Brooklyn” is quite the toe-tapper:
Finally, for those who weren’t paying attention in the comments yesterday, a note from MMJeff:
You’ve said it before, but your readers are truly awesome people; yesterday I learned from our LCCH staff that they wanted to know what “Nancy Nall” was or who she was, because through the link on the website we’d gotten a couple of donations that noted your name as the reason for the giving, and also a “Jeff.” A third is inexplicable and distant-ish (New Jersey) and may well fit with the other two.
Anyhow, I told them, and told them I’d thank you “personally” for the venue and the opportunity; I also took the liberty of posting a news story at the thread yesterday with general thanks. Your kind words a few days ago have spurred some help our way, and direct donations are very appreciated by our service coordinators because that big hunk o’ HUD money comes with a million strings on it — we love it, and would close (many of our units, anyhow) without it, but there’s no room for creative problem solving and social worker skills. You fill out the forms, you work the process, you turn the crank and out comes the sausage.
The $35,000 we raise is small next to our $1.2 million total annual budget, but it represents so much more than that, to the staff and those they can do useful, interesting, and cool things for. A few weeks ago, they bought some nice shoes for a woman who got a good outfit for a job interview, and the service coordinator decided her self-confidence needed some rocking heels with the donated clothes. Federal dollars cannot be used to buy rocking heels, apparently; “local” fundraising can.
Again, thanks! I come for the recipes, not the fundraising (and a little provocation, occasionally), but this was just so unexpected, and so timely. And you may have picked up a few more readers from the Newark OH area in our offices at the Coalition.
This has happened before, with other worthy causes. You guys? You are the best. Srsly.
OK, off to shower and Wayne State, there to spread my germs around campus. Which may well be where they originated, for all I know.